WE have seen that mechanical power, though a most perilous instrument, might be used for the construction of a world community incomparably more vital than any that has hitherto existed. We have seen that what stands in the way of this consummation is the fact that the ideal world depends for its realization on the present half-savage world. The contemporary human race has no serious will to create a world in which all men will be able to live a fuller life. If this will is to be propagated, one of the main tasks is to set forth a clear and compelling idea of what human nature really is, and especially what in it is distinctively human and most to be prized. We cannot cope with the task of remaking our world on a better plan unless we have a comprehensive view of man's needs and potentialities, a view which does full justice both to his animal nature and to that in virtue of which he is more awakened mentally than any sub-human animal. Not only do we need a clear intellectual statement of the distinctively human in man, so that we may create a new world which shall be appropriate; we also need to realize far more vividly that this truly human factor in human nature is something to be greatly prized, something worth living for and dying for, something which should rightly command the allegiance that we are apt to squander on lesser ends.

European thought has for long been passing through a phase of revulsion from the view that man is essentially different from any other living creature. This revulsion was salutary, but the pendulum has swung too far. It is now fashionable to hold that the difference between man and other mammals is but superficial. All the formerly most-prized attributes of man have been described in terms of the attributes which he has in common with other mammals; and though the description is, up to a point, true and instructive, it is also subtly falsifying to the distinctively human in man. The result has been that the old naive view that man was a princely or divine alien in a strange land has given place to an equally false view that he is just a peculiarly cunning ape. Hence the far-reaching disillusionment, cynicism, apathy, of our time.

In the following chapters I shall offer a cautious re-vindication of human nature. I shall briefly present the view that, though a man is indeed 'at bottom' an animal, or more strictly a mere electro-magnetic system, he has certain powers which in other animals are almost entirely undeveloped, powers which transform his whole experience and behaviour. The exercise and development of these powers, I shall claim, constitute the proper function of each individual and of the race as a whole.

This chapter will be concerned with a purely theoretical discussion of the relation of the animal and the human in man. To readers who feel that abstract thought is a waste of time, I would urge that this is a subject on which clear thinking is urgent, since false and fashionable theories have recently done so much to obscure man's knowledge of himself and coarsen his purpose. My aim is to give an outline of human capacity in such terms as to do justice to the scientific view of man and yet to pass cautiously beyond the limitations of contemporary science. Let me confess at the outset that I have nothing original to say on this subject. The need is only to give a balanced judgement on conflicting views.

Any man, say John Smith, may be regarded as a system of needs or capacities for action. Of course, John Smith is a unique individual. Though in some respects he is similar to others of his kind, he is also very different from any other. Moreover, since his mind is not merely a bundle of separate parts or elements, but an extraordinarily unified thing, in which every part permeates every other, there is nothing in him which is not in some manner unique. Even the characteristics which he shares with others appear in him with a unique tone or flavour all his own. What is common to him and Tom Jones is a system of very abstract or general characters which each makes concrete in his own manner. Further, it is on the whole in his less-developed, less subtle aspects that John Smith is most like his fellows. It is rather on the distinctively human than on the animal plane that men begin to differ greatly from one another.

Some of the actions of which John Smith is capable are comparatively simple, some are much more complex. Some he shares with other mammals, though he generally exercises them in his own distinctive manners; some are of kinds beyond the reach of other mammals. I shall argue that all John Smith's distinctively human capacities are the outcome of his distinctively human degree of intelligence and imagination. But let us first consider John Smith as an animal. As an animal he has certain capacities which he cannot exercise apart from an appropriate physical, chemical and social environment. For fulfilment as a human being he needs the even more complex environment of human society.

We can dismiss the physical and chemical requirements of his animal nature in a few words. He needs a planet with a certain gravitational attraction; for if gravity were removed, or if it were greatly increased, he could not walk. He needs also a certain atmospheric pressure. Too much or too little would soon incapacitate him. He needs a certain constancy of temperature. Only if he is warm enough, but not too warm, can he continue to live. He needs sunlight. Without it he soon begins to ail; with excess of it, his skin and his eyes are damaged.

He needs innumerable chemical substances, all in due proportions, and in due season. Oxygen, water, many compounds of carbon, hydrogen, calcium, iron, and so on, he requires in large and regular doses. Countless other substances, though he uses them in smaller proportions are no less necessary to him. A slight excess or shortage of anyone of them may reduce his body to sickness or death, his mind to disorder. Only in our own day are we beginning to realize the extreme complexity of his chemical needs and the extent to which his intelligence and his temperament are dependent on them.

As an animal John Smith needs not merely to have certain chemicals in his system, but also to procure them and assimilate them. In fact he needs, if he is to maintain his vitality, the complex activities of breathing, drinking and eating. Not only so, but in some form or other he must seek his food. He must do something corresponding to the animal activity of hunting or grazing. If he is merely fed, and has no occasion to exert himself, he turns sluggish in body and mind. As an animal he is equipped for an active life. He must therefore have occasion to use his legs for locomotion, his hands for manipulation, his eyes, ears, nose, and his hands also, for perceiving and discriminating the characters of his environment. Possibly, also, he needs for full animal well-being perceptions of the kind of environment to which his animal nature is adapted, perceptions of hills and trees and forests rather than of streets and buildings and roaring traffic. There may be tracts in his brain adapted to the one rather than to the other; but this is doubtful.

He has sexual organs, specially adapted to intercourse with females of his kind. When he has reached maturity his mind is deeply influenced by these organs. He develops, for instance, strong impulses to perceive and to delight in members of the opposite sex. He needs also the simple animal activity of sex, in due season, and with due frequency.

He is a gregarious animal, and he needs some degree of fellowship with his kind. Prolonged loneliness preys upon him, as it does on his relative the ape. He craves to feel at one with the herd. He needs the herd's physical protection and mental approval. To be opposed to the herd is to find himself single against the universe, and this terrifies him. It also painfully stimulates the human in him as opposed to the animal, for it fosters a brooding self-consciousness. Like the ape, he needs to have opportunity of combining his social and his sexual capacities by means of more or less enduring companionship with a partner or partners of the opposite sex. In one respect his purely animal nature seems to go farther than that of the highest sub-human mammals. In them the female alone has strong impulses to protect and foster, and this activity she normally directs almost entirely on her own offspring. In the human species, not only has the .male as well as the female considerable capacity for spontaneous protectiveness, but also in both sexes this impulse is far more catholic in its direction than in any other species.

Like other animals, John Smith needs in his relations with his kind not only animal companionship, but also opportunities of asserting himself in the animal way, and of abasing himself. He needs to lead and to be led. He needs opportunities of rivalry. He has also an animal capacity for self-assertion in combat. In the wild state he would no doubt express this with the action of teeth and claws upon any rivals that roused his anger reflexes. On the human plane, he finds other modes of expression. In the ideal world, no doubt, this impulse would not be allowed to exercise itself in the jungle manner nor in defence of the jungle self, but it would have to be taken into account and given some kind of socially harmless outlet, such as competitive games, or rivalry in social service.

Another capacity which John Smith has in common with some other animals, for instance the apes, is inquisitiveness, the impulse to investigate situations which, though on the whole familiar, are in some notable respect strange. These situations and this impulse together provide an occasion for the exercise of intelligence, and thus is formed the germ which in man himself gives rise to theoretical interests and activities.

Yet another important animal capacity in John Smith is the impulse to construct. Like the apes, he has hands and the necessary brain organization for manual dexterity. These organs he delights to use. But his constructive impulse does not confine itself to manipulation. With the aid of distinctively human intelligence and imagination it finds expression in many other fields, such as art and theoretical activity.



Such, in brief, are the animal capacities of John Smith. I have already said that his distinctively human capacities are all the outcome of the distinctively human degree of his intelligence and imagination.

Now intelligence and imagination are not, strictly speaking, confined to man. Indeed, in the broadest sense of the word 'intelligence', all animals may be said to have that capacity to some extent, however slight; and in the higher mammals, especially the apes, it is comparatively well developed. Nevertheless in man alone does it play so great a part as to transform behaviour from a simple and mainly innate routine to the age-long adventure which has brought us (for good or ill) to our present pass.

The reader may protest that, since, after all, the difference between man and animal is only one of degree of intelligence and imagination, it is not fundamental. True, it is not fundamental; but it is supremely important. Even a slight difference of degree may make just all the difference. A dam may withstand a huge pressure of water; but there comes a point when only a slight increase will burst the dam and devastate a countryside. The difference of degree between human and animal intelligence is not slight but great. The 'tension' of human intelligence is such that whole worlds, which the animal cannot enter at all, are opened up for man.

If we allow that man's nature is very largely 'animal', we should perhaps also affirm that animals, in so far as they manifest intelligence, are to that extent 'human'. We have admitted that the distinction between animals and men, though extremely important, is not absolute. This does not necessarily mean that the human being can be wholly described in terms of recognized principles of animal biology and psychology. Indeed, it may be that even the nature of a sub-human animal demands for its full explanation principles which are to be discovered only on the human plane.

Intelligence may be defined as the power of solving novel problems by means of insight into their essential features, and into the relation between those features and relevant past experiences.

Intelligence only operates in response to some need or needs which cannot be fulfilled in any purely innate or purely habitual way. Strictly speaking, even in the most stereotyped instinctive or habitual situation there is bound to be some slight amount of irregularity or novelty, and therefore some slight demand for intelligence. But for practical purposes there is an important difference between acts which are mainly instinctive or habitual and acts which are mainly intelligent.

Here it is worth while to quote a famous example of animal intelligence in which the essential nature of intelligence is very clearly seen. Professor Köhler, seeking the limits of intelligence in apes, performed many interesting experiments on his chimpanzees. The need which spurred them to intelligent behaviour was hunger. They were kept without food for a while, then introduced to a situation in which food was visible, but could not be reached in any familiar manner. For instance, they would discover fruit hanging by a cord from the cage-roof, and too high to be secured by jumping. But in the cage there would be a number of packing-cases, which could be built up as a tower under the fruit. Packing-cases do not occur in the jungle. The ape has no instinctive aptitude for building towers. But these captive apes had already been allowed to have opportunities of playing with packing-cases and familiarizing themselves with the potentialities of these objects. In the test- situation the more intelligent apes would in time see the connexion between this 'situation demanding climbing' and the climbable character of a tower of packing-cases, such as they had already often made in play. Then they would proceed, very clumsily, to build a precarious tower, on to which, with native agility, they would climb for the fruit.

This example may be taken as the type of all intelligence, both simple and complex, both practical and theoretical. The differences between ape intelligence and human intelligence may be summed as follows.

  1. Man has superior insight into the essence of the problem itself. He discriminates more quickly and surely between the significant aspect of the situation and those features of it which are irrelevant to the problem.

  2. He has superior power of recalling past experience. When he is faced with a problem, his mind is less likely to remain blank. Images and ideas more or less relevant to the problem may crowd in on him.

  3. He has sharper insight into the relations between the problem and the images and ideas which well up in his mind. He can detect significant relations which the ape would miss.

  4. When he sets about the practical line of action in relation to the problem, he can more delicately and appropriately modify his familiar actions so as to suit the problem.

  5. One advantage which man has over the ape in respect of intelligence, an advantage which perhaps underlies all the others, and certainly affords him an incomparably greater scope of experience and action, is his far ampler and far more discriminative apprehension of his world.

In the first place, a man perceives his physical environment better than an ape. He apprehends it in much greater detail, and far more accurately and systematically.

What appears to a man as an orderly coil of rope is to the ape indistinguishable from a tangle. Moreover, what a man notices is relevant not only to his animal needs but to his much more complex human needs, which are themselves very largely the outcome of past intelligent activity. One has only to think of the special interest with which the farmer perceives his land and the weather, the engineer his machines, the artist the coloured shapes of nature.

But in addition to his perceived environment man has other fields of experience in which to exercise his intelligence. Of these, perhaps the most important is the inner world of his own mental activities, and the inferred world of other minds. In this direction he exercises a delicacy of percipience or 'sensibility' impossible to any other animal. And this percipience is itself sharpened and refined by, if not created by, the constant use of intelligence.

The starting-point for the advance into this inner world would seem to consist in man's intelligent discrimination between his activity of experiencing and that which he experiences; between on the one hand, desiring, fearing, perceiving, remembering, thinking, and so on, and on the other that which he desires, fears, perceives, remembers, thinks, and so on. Even in the fully developed human mind this discrimination remains so obscure and precarious that some schools of thought stoutly deny the possibility of any such distinction. I shall not argue the matter, but merely affirm that to me it is obvious that the distinction must be made for practical purposes; and that even philosophically it must be maintained in some sense or other. To say this is not to pledge oneself to metaphysical dualism, in which matter and mind are taken to be ultimate substances, in the philosophical sense. It might be that there was only one kind of substance, but that every particular substance had two attributes, namely its own consciousness and its physical manifestation to other substances.

In the sphere of personality countless problems arise which are distinctively human. Such problems are experienced by all who attempt to 'know themselves', and by all who love or hate in an awakened manner, or are In any way brought into 'personal contact' with one another. One great class of these problems is discovered in the heart-searchings of the religious devotee. All these aspects of personality are illustrated and developed in the drama and in the novel of manners, or of 'sensibility '.

From this introspective experience may arise a vast and subtle tissue of distinctively human motives which can only by gross over-simplification be described wholly in terms of simple animal motives. One may well suspect that in this direction lie whole worlds of possible experience which are not accessible to the present type of human mind. Contemporary man has indeed come to take stock by indirect methods of the lowly, primitive and often infantile motives of his so-called 'unconscious mind'; and it is possible that future generations, properly educated, will be fully conscious of the deepest roots of their own motives. We may well doubt, however, whether our own species will ever rise to loftier modes of experience, to a new biological level of self-consciousness as superior to man's present level as that is to the ape's. On the other hand, a few spiritual geniuses of our race may even now attain to experiences impossible to the ordinary man. And in any case we have no reason to suppose that the most developed or 'awakened' mode of human experience is the most awakened that can occur at all in the universe.

Another sphere in which human intelligence has to operate is the sphere of abstract thought, which includes mathematics, science and philosophy. Here the ultimate data are still certain characters first apprehended in sense perception, or in introspection; but these characters are clearly discriminated from their particular context, and identified with other instances of their kind, experienced in other contexts. Thus it is that the human mind becomes conscious of universal characters, as such, and begins to manipulate them in imagination in the manner of abstract thought. The motive of this treatment may be some need to solve a particular practical problem, or it may be sheer curiosity, or the will to analyse and to see things whole.

The word 'imagination' is ambiguous. In one sense, intelligence itself involves imagination; for it involves the power of imagining possible actions in relation to a problem. In this sense, then, wherever there is intelligence there is some degree of imagination.

In another sense 'imagination' itself involves intelligence. For by 'imagination' we often mean the power of constructing mentally patterns of images, ideas, actions and emotions; and this involves intelligent discrimination between those images or ideas or actions or emotions which are, and those which are not, relevant to the pattern which it is desired to construct. This kind of imaginative activity is special to man; and it is in this sense that I use the word 'imagination' when I say that intelligence and imagination are distinctively human activities.

The phrase 'creative imagination', which has many senses, may perhaps be most conveniently used to apply to those most original acts of imaginative insight by which, in any field of experience, the mind may leap to the apprehension either of order in what formerly appeared as chaotic, or of far-reaching significance in what formerly appeared as barren, or of 'transparency' and new vistas of reality through what formerly appeared as opaque. In this sense certain apprehensions of personality (in oneself or another), and certain outstanding achievements of art, science and philosophy, might fittingly be called works of creative imagination.

These are the activities which the awakened mind prizes most in itself and others. We all value in ourselves and others breadth and depth of self-consciousness and of sensibility to other persons. We admire self-transcendence in generous behaviour. We admire aesthetic sensitivity, intellectual honesty and penetration. These attributes we prize not only for their utility to society, but as intrinsically good.

It may be that the superior merit which we assign to them is due partly to their greater difficulty and rarity; and that, if they happened to be easy and common, we should tend to prize them less. There is a sense in which every exercise of vital capacity, of whatever order, is as desirable as every other; since all equally are needed for full personal expression. In this sense simple muscular activity is no less desirable than poetry. But since in actual life it is the distinctively ,human that is more in danger of frustration, this tends to be the more cherished by minds capable of appreciating both.

Nevertheless this extraneous, 'economic' value is not the sole cause of our admiration of the distinctively human. The more difficult, more human activities are, I submit, experienced as actually more awakened, more vital, more deeply fulfilling to the personality, than the less awakened, animal activities. The problem is complicated by the fact that, as I shall maintain in more detail in the next chapter, the awakened mind may discover in the animal activities themselves a depth of significance to which in all probability the animal is insensitive.



I have described as clearly as I can the essential difference between the distinctively animal and the distinctively human in man. It is now necessary to consider the relation between them, and in particular the view which seeks to explain the distinctively human motives and activities wholly in terms of the impulses which man has in common with other animals. In this section I am concerned with an abstract philosophical problem. To readers who consider such problems unimportant, I would protest that this particular philosophical problem is really very important, because of its indirect effects on private conduct and social policy.

The 'animal view' of John Smith is the view that he is born with certain dispositions which occur also in other mammals, and that his behaviour, like theirs, can be fully understood by considering the relation between these dispositions and his environment throughout his life. The only difference between him and other mammals, in this view, is, not that, owing to his greater intelligence and versatility, he has kinds of needs which they lack, but merely that his greater intelligence and versatility enable him to satisfy his basic animal needs or fulfil his basic animal dispositions in ways which are not open to lower animals. The satisfaction may sometimes be produced by the actual direct fulfilment of an animal need, as when a hunter, craving food, uses intelligence in order to capture and cook his quarry; or it may be a fictitious satisfaction, produced by mere imagination of actual fulfilment, as when hungry explorers describe feasts to one another, or dream of banquets; or it may be veiled or unconscious satisfaction, as when the sexually starved take delight in religious rituals which are obscurely symbolical of sex, or as when one whose self-assertiveness has been continuously thwarted in youth exhibits in maturity a cruel and domineering disposition. Always, in this view, the actual driving motive of human conduct is either some simple animal craving, such as self-assertiveness, or hunger, or fear, or sex, or parential protectiveness, or 'herd instinct'; or else it is a compound of these.

Unfortunately no one yet knows at all clearly what primitive motives there really are, or, indeed, whether there are any such basic or unanalysable motives at all. In some sense or other, no doubt, all mammals have dispositions to ' assert' themselves, to seek sexual intercourse, to seek fellowship. with their kind, and so on. In some sense all human behaviour is, indeed, an expression, extremely indirect, of these dispositions. And it is very important to realize that this is so, and that often the one really effective, though unwitting, motive behind a seemingly exalted act is sheer self-regard, or sheer sex, and so on. The theory of 'unconscious' or unacknowledged motivation is one of the most far-reaching discoveries of modern times.

But when the advocates of this theory of human nature claim that all human conduct can in. theory be adequately described in terms of primitive animal impulse and the principle of unconscious motivation, they over-simplify the problem.

No doubt every human act affords satisfaction to one or more animal impulses. Nevertheless such impulses may happen not to constitute the effective motive of the act. When a man attends a political meeting he may find satisfaction for his gregarious impulse, but it does not follow that gregariousness was his real motive. This satisfaction may be incidental.

There can, I think, be little doubt that, in one sense, every human act could theoretically be analysed into a tissue of animal impulses, much as a painting may be analysed into a tissue of 'brush-strokes' of different sizes and shapes and colours distributed in a certain order. This account of the picture would be very inadequate, but no less so than the account of human activity presented solely in terms of animal impulses.

The advocates of the animal theory of human nature fall into the error of over-simplification. They think, for instance, that, if they can point to all the primitive motives which are involved in the production of a particular work of art, they have shown that the whole motive of it is simply a medley of animal cravings. They fail to realize that, in the human mind, those same 'animal' cravings themselves have been transmuted into something more subtle; that, simply by the operation of intelligence and imagination, the 'animal' motives of self, sex, society, and so on, acquire additional characteristics over and above those which, so far as we can judge, they manifest in the lower mammals. So to speak, man discovers more in them than the sub-human animal can apprehend.

Further, those psychologists who interpret human behaviour solely in terms of animal motive fail to realize that a second order of transmutation occurs even within the human sphere, as between the basic motives of the most primitive human mind and the basic motives of the most developed. For the primitive human cravings may be changed beyond recognition simply through the continued operation of intelligence and imagination in a highly civilized environment. So that the 'self' which the fully developed human mind seeks to 'assert' may be a very different 'self' from that which a child or a savage asserts; and sexual satisfaction for such a mind may be something infinitely richer and more subtle than that which is craved by the crudest sort of human being; and in civilized man the craving for society and social approval is very different not only from animal but from primitive human gregariousness. So also with art, though we rightly admire the sincere and often deeply moving aesthetic achievements of primitive peoples, it is mere affectation to ignore the fact that the finest art of the most aesthetically conscious civilizations far outstrips the primitive in breadth and delicacy of significance.

No doubt, for fullness of life the developed mind must have a due measure of satisfaction upon the strictly sub-human and the primitive human planes; but it must also have very much else. For, through the prolonged operation of intelligence and imagination it discovers vast spheres of experience (and therefore of needs and satisfactions) which can no more; be adequately described in terms of the crude primitive motives than a plant can be described as a mere enlargement of a seed.

Now the attempt to explain developed human behaviour in terms of the primitive and the animal is salutary. It tends to diminish man's conceit, and it goes to work with the sound scientific principle of explaining the complex in terms of the simple, wherever possible. But this appears to be one of the spheres in which it turns out not to be possible fully to explain the complex in terms of the simple, or rather in terms of our present knowledge of the simple. Those who favour this kind of explanation may come to think that to show the primitive origins of developed behaviour is to show that developed behaviour is but an unimportant veneer laid over the 'solid structure' of primitive animal nature.

In view of this danger it is very necessary to bear in mind on the one hand the uncertainty and abstractness of all our present psychological knowledge, and on the other the actual features of developed behaviour and experience. Those who have ever found themselves intensely conscious of the personality of another individual, and those who have ever had vivid and intimate acquaintance with any art, or with the life of intellect, or with genuine religion, are apt to feel, when they are confronted with a psychological explanation of their experience, that the psychologist simply had no clear apprehension of the kind of thing to be explained. Now I believe they are mistaken; I believe the psychologist very often has a clear apprehension of these developed experiences; but that as soon as he tries to account for these experiences in terms of his psychology, he becomes more interested in his theories than in the matter to be explained, and begins to lose sight of those aspects of it which cannot be adequately described in terms of his theories. Thus his description is apt to seem like an account of Hamlet without the Prince of Denmark.

The policy of explaining the more complex and developed in terms of the more simple and undeveloped is well justified by success in many scientific fields. But it incurs one serious danger. The desire for intellectual neatness and simplicity may lead to distortion of the data to be explained. The mind may become blind to everything which cannot be described in terms of the principles derived from study of the simpler matter.

Those who hold what I am calling the animal view of human nature themselves bring the charge of over-simplification against those who seek to account for animal behaviour solely in terms of chemistry and physics. They feel that such extreme simplification is unjustified. Their opponents, on the other hand, feel that simplification should be pushed to its logical conclusion, that not only the highly developed activities of man but animal instincts also should be reduced to simpler terms. Some day, they declare, instinctive reactions will be wholly described in terms of nerve-tracts and glandular secretions; and these in turn will be wholly described in terms of biochemical principles, which will ultimately be reduced to the principles of electro-magnetism. A man, they hold, is simply a chemical system; and a chemical system is a system of electrons and protons, or whatever ultimate units physicists recognize.

My main contention with regard to both the animal view and the physical view of man can be stated in a few words. Possibly human behaviour will eventually be fully described in terms of biological principles; but if so, biological principles will be very different from those which biologists are content to accept to-day. Possibly human and animal behaviour will eventually be described in terms of fundamental physical principles; but if so, physical principles will be very different from those which physicists are content to accept to-day. Meanwhile, though we should indeed try to describe human behaviour so far as possible in terms of our biology and our physics, we must anxiously beware lest in our scientific zeal we turn a blind eye to important characteristics in human behaviour. This caution is necessary because the recent tendency to describe human nature in the over-simplified terms of biology and physics has falsified the distinctively human, and has produced a widespread and emasculating disillusionment with regard to the nature of man.

It should be obvious that mental events, states of awareness, experiencings, cannot, in principle, be described in terms of chemistry or physics. Those sciences deal only with physical events which are all reducible to movement. Desiring, fearing, thinking and perceiving lie entirely outside their range. Of course, if we accept the view of the extreme Behaviourists, and deny the existence of experiencings or consciousness, we need not admit that there is anything in animal or human behaviour other than the events studied by physics. .But if we refrain from this fantastic denial of consciousness we must agree that the concepts of contemporary physics cannot even in principle describe the whole of human nature.

But it might still be possible to show that, though physical science can never describe mental life, there exists a regular relation between every mental event and certain physical events in a living body; and that for understanding the sequence of mental events the important procedure is to understand the physical events which determine them. Anger, for instance, is said to be the mental accompaniment of a certain chemical condition of the body. Therefore if you would understand the anger responses of an animal or a man, if you seek to predict them or control them, you must study the causes of that chemical condition.

In this view, then, although consciousness does exist, it is entirely ineffective. Acts of will, for instance, do not really produce either the mental or the physical changes which we ordinarily suppose them to produce. The real causes of these changes are said to be physical, and the conscious volition is a by-product.

Some people regard this view with horror. For my part I do not see why they should distress themselves. If a man behaves well, what matter whether that in him in virtue of which he behaves well is physical or mental or both or neither? To my mind courage, generosity, intellect, artistic sensibility, religious sensibility, and so on, are no whit less admirable if they are mechanically and physically caused. I admire them for what they are, not for their causes.

On the other hand, one may well feel sceptical of the theory that animal and human behaviour can in principle be understood simply in terms of the familiar concept of physical causation. It demands a naïve, childlike trust in the principles of contemporary science. It springs from a wholly false assumption that what we now call the physical aspect of existence must be the most significant, the fundamental aspect. This assumption has been caused partly by the fact that the physical has proved the easiest to study accurately and also the most profitable in the quest for power.

There is, moreover, a real danger in the view that animal and human behaviour are physically determined, simply and absolutely. It creates an irrational tendency to pay more attention and respect to the physical than the mental in man, and to the simpler and more mechanical activities than to the more complex and developed and distinctively human activities. I myself, to repeat, do not greatly care whether man's distinctively human behaviour is to be accounted for wholly by physical laws describing the movements of the physical units of his body, or not. If physics were to succeed in doing this, I should take off my hat to it, and recognize that there was more in it than at first appeared. But what I do care for is that the distinctively human ways of behaving should not be therefore ignored or disparaged.

As a matter of fact the mechanistic theory of human nature would probably not tend to belittle the distinctively human activities if it could really account for them. But since all it can do is to give a very superficial and distorting account of them, it does to-day tend to make its adherents misconceive them and disparage them.

Chapter 5

Chapter 3

Waking World Contents