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Perhaps the most ready and certain mode of coming to a conclusion in this intricate inquiry will be by the apparently circuitous route of de termining first what we do not mean by the word. Now we certainly do not mean, in the use of the term, any act of the vital power in the production or maintenance of an organ: nobody thinks of saying that the teeth grow by instinct, or that when the muscles are increased in vigour and size in consequence of exercise, it is from such a cause or principle. Neither do we attribute instinct to the direct functions of the organs in providing for the continuance and sustentation of the whole co-organized body. No one talks of the liver secreting bile, or of the heart acting for the propulsion of the blood, by instinct. Some, indeed, have maintained that breathing, even voiding the excrement and urine, are instinctive operations; but surely these, as well as the former, are automatic, or at least are the necessary results of the organization of the parts in and by which the actions are produced. These instances seem to be, if I may so say, below instinct. But, again, we do not attribute instinct to any actions preceded by a will conscious of its whole purpose, calculating its effects, and predetermining its consequences; nor to any exercise of the intellectual powers of which the whole scope, aim, and end are intellectual. In other terms, no man who values his words will talk of the instinct of a Howard, or of the instinctive operations of a Newton or Leibnitz, in those sublime efforts which ennoble and cast a lustre, not less on the individuals than on the whole human race.
To what kind or mode of action shall we then look for the legitimate application of the term ? In answer to this query we may, I think, without fear of the consequences, put the following cases, as exemplifying and justifying the use of the term instinct in an appropriate sense. First, when there appears an action, not included either in the mere functions of life, acting within the sphere of its own organismus ; nor yet an action attributable to the intelligent will or reason, yet at the same time not referable to any particular organ; we then declare the presence of an instinct. We might illustrate this in the instance of a bull-calf butting before he has horns, in which the action can have no reference to its internal economy, to the presence of a particular organ, or to an intelligent will. Secondly, likewise (if it be not included in the first) we attribute instinct where the organ
present, if only the act is equally anterior to all possible experience on the part
of the individual agent; as for instance, when the beaver employs its tail for the construction of its dwelling; the tailor-bird its bill for the formation of its pensile habitation; the spider its spinning organ for fabricating its artfully woven nets; or the viper its poison fang for its defence. And lastly, generally where there is an act of the whole body as one animal, not referable to a will conscious of its purpose, nor to its mechanism, nor to a habit derived from experience, nor previous frequent use. Here with most satisfaction, and without doubt of the propriety of the word, we declare an instinct; as examples of which,
adduce the migratory habits of birds; the social instincts of the bees, the construction of their habitations, composed of cells formed with geometrical precision, adapted in capacity to different orders of the society, and forming storehouses for containing a supply of provisions; not to mention similar instances in wasps, ants, termites, and the endless contrivances for protecting the future progeny.
But if it be admitted that we have rightly stated the application of the term, what, we may ask, is contained in the examples adduced, or what inferences are we to make as to the nature of instinct itself, as a source and principle of action? We shall, perhaps, best aid ourselves in the inquiry by an example; and let us take a very familiar
one, of a caterpillar taking its food. The caterpillar seeks at once the plant which furnishes the appropriate aliment, and this even as soon as it creeps from the ovum; and the food being taken into the stomach, the nutritious part is separated from the innutritious, and is disposed of for the support of the animal. The question then is, what is contained in this instance of instinct ? In the first place, what does the vital
power in the stomach do, if we generalize the account of the process, or express it in its most general terms? Manifestly it selects and applies appropriate means to an immediate end, prescribed by the constitution, first of the particular organ, and then of the whole body or organismus. This we have admitted is not instinct. But what does the caterpillar do? Does it not also select and apply appropriate means to an immediate end prescribed by its particular organization and constitution ? But there is something more; it does this according to circumstances; and this we call instinct. But may there not be still something more involved? What shall we say of Huber's humble bees? A dozen of these were put under a bell-glass along with a comb of about ten silken cocoons, so unequal in height as not to be capable
of standing steadily; to remedy this, two or three of the humble-bees got upon the comb, stretched themselves over its edge, and with their heads downwards fixed their forefeet on the table on which the comb stood, and so with their hind feet kept the comb from falling: when these were weary others took their places. In this constrained and painful posture, fresh bees relieving their comrades at intervals, and each working in its turn, did these affectionate little insects support the comb for nearly three days, at the end of which time they had prepared sufficient wax to build pillars with it. And what is still further curious, the first pillars having got displaced, the bees had again recourse to the same manœuvre. What then is involved in this case ? Evidently the same selection and appropriation of means to an immediate end as before, but observe ! according to varying circum
And here we are puzzled; for this becomes understanding. At least no naturalist, however predetermined to contrast and oppose instinct to understanding, but ends at last in facts in which he himself can make out no difference. But are we hence to conclude that the instinct is the same, and identical with the human understanding? Certainly not; though the difference is not in the essentials of the definition, but in an addition to, or modification of, that which is essentially the same in both. In such cases, namely, as that which we have last adduced, in which instinct assumes the semblance of understanding, the act indicative of instinct is not clearly prescribed by the constitution or laws of the animal's peculiar organization, but arises out of the constitution and previous circumstances of the animal, and those habits, wants, and that predetermined sphere of action and operation which belong to the race, and beyond the limits of which it does not pass. If this be the case, I may venture to assert that I have determined an appropriate sense for instinct : namely, that it is a power of selecting and applying appropriate means to an immediate end, according to cir cumstances and the changes of circumstances, these being variable and varying, but yet so as to be referable to the general habits arising out of the constitution and previous circumstances of the animal, considered not as an individual but as a race.
We may here, perhaps, most fitly explain the error of those who contend for the identity of reason and instinct, and believe that the actions of animals are the result of invention and experience. They have, no doubt, been deceived in their investigation of instinct by an efficient cause stimulating a final cause, and the defect in their reasoning has arisen in consequence of observing in the instinctive operations of animals the adaptation of means to a relative end, from the assumption of a deliberate purpose. To this freedom or choice in action and purpose, instinct, in any appropriate sense of the word, cannot apply; and to justify and explain its introduction, we must have recourse to other and higher faculties than any manifested in the operations of instinct. It is evident, namely, in turning our attention to the distinguishing character of human actions, that there is, as in the inferior animals, a selection and appropriation of means to ends, but it is not only according to circumstances, not only according to varying circumstances, but it is) according to varying purposes. But this is an attribute of the intelligent will, and no longer even mere understanding
And here let me observe that the difficulty and delicacy of this investigation are greatly increased by our not considering the understanding (even our own) in itself, and as it would be were it not accompanied with and modified by the co-operation of the will, the moral feeling, and that faculty, perhaps best distinguished by the name of reason, of determining that which is universal and necessary, of fixing laws and principles, whether speculative or practical, and of contemplating a final purpose or end. This intelligent will—having a selfconscious purpose, under the guidance and light of the reason, by which its acts are made to bear as a whole upon some end in and for itself, and to which the understanding is subservient as an organ or the faculty of selecting and appropriating the means-seems best to account for that progressiveness of the human race which so evidently marks an insurmountable distinction and impassable barrier between man and the inferior animals; but which would be inexplicable, were there no other difference than in the degree of their intellectual faculties.
Man, doubtless, has his instincts, even in common with the inferior animals, and many of these are the germs of some of the best feelings of his nature. What, amongst many, might I present as a betier illustration, or more beautiful instance, than the storge or maternal instinct. But man's instincts are elevated and ennobled by the moral ends and purposes of his being. He is not destined to be the slave of
blind impulses, a vessel purposeless, unmeant. He is constituted by his moral and intelligent will to be the first freed being, the masterwork and the end of nature; but this freedom and high office can only co-exist with fealty and devotion to the service of truth and virtue. And though we may even be permitted to use the term instinct, in order to designate those high impulses which, in the minority of man's rational being, shape his acts unconsciously to ultimate ends, and which in constituting the very character and impress of the humanity reveal the guidance of providence; yet the convenience of the phrase, and the want of any other distinctive appellation for an influence de supra, working unconsciously in and on the whole human race, should not induce us to forget that the term instinct is only strictly applicable to the adaptive power, as the faculty, even in its highest proper form, of selecting and adapting appropriate means to proximate ends according to varying circumstances,-a faculty which, however, only differs from human understanding in consequence of the latter being enlightened by reason, and that the principles which actuatė man as ultimate ends, and are designed for his conscious possession and guidance, are best and most properly named ideas.
45.—THE RED FISHERMAN.
PRAED. (WINTHROP MACKWORTH PRAED,—whose poetical works will, we trust, soon be collected and published in this country, as they have been imperfectly done in the United States,—was the son of Mr. Sergeant Praed. In 1820, while at Eton College, he prepared and brought out, with the aid of other young men, a periodical work entitled “The Etonian,' which went through four editions. He was subsequently, while at Trinity College, Cambridge, one of the principal contributors to 'Knight's Quarterly Magazine.' Mr. Praed's university career was one of almost unequalled brilliancy. In 1831, having previously been called to the bar, he was returned to Parliament for a Cornish borough. His health was always somewhat feeble; and the promises of his youth were closed by his early death in 1840.]
The Abbot arose, and closed his book,
And donned his sandal shoon,
Upon the summer moon :