We find it very hard to see things in that light, because we cannot help conceiving organization as manufacturing. But it is one thing to manufacture, and quite another to organize. Manufacturing is peculiar to man. It consists in assembling parts of matter which we have cut out in such manner that we can fit them together and obtain from them a common action. The parts are arranged, so to speak, around the action as an ideal centre. To manufacture, therefore, is to work from the periphery to the centre, or, as the philosophers say, from the many to the one. Organization, on the contrary, works from the centre to the periphery. It begins in a point that is almost a mathematical point, and spreads around this point by concentric waves which go on enlarging. The work of manufacturing is the more effective, the greater the quantity of matter dealt with. It proceeds by concentration and compression. The organizing act, on the contrary, has something explosive about it: it needs at the beginning the smallest possible place, a minimum of matter, as if the organizing forces only entered space reluctantly. The spermatozoon, which sets in motion the evolutionary process of the embryonic life, is one of the smallest cells of the organism; and it is only a small part of the spermatozoon which really takes part in the operation.
But these are only superficial differences. Digging beneath them, we think, a deeper difference would be found.
A manufactured thing delineates exactly the form of the work of manufacturing it. I mean that the manufacturer finds in his product exactly what he has put into it. If he is going to make a machine, he cuts out its pieces one by one and then puts them together: the machine, when made, will show both the pieces and their assemblage. The whole of the result represents the whole of the work; and to each part of the work corresponds a part of the result.
Now I recognize that positive science can and should proceed as if organization was like making a machine. Only so will it have any hold on organized bodies. For its object is not to show us the essence of things, but to furnish us with the best means of acting on them. Physics and chemistry are well advanced sciences, and living matter lends itself to our action only so far as we can treat it by the processes of our physics and chemistry. Organization can therefore only be studied scientifically if the organized body has first been likened to a machine. The cells will be the pieces of the machine, the organism their assemblage, and the elementary labors which have organized the parts will be regarded as the real elements of the labor which has organized the whole. This is the standpoint of science. Quite different, in our opinion, is that of philosophy.
For us, the whole of an organized machine may, strictly speaking, represent the whole of the organizing work (this is, however, only approximately true), yet the parts of the machine do not correspond to parts of the work, because the materiality of this machine does not represent a sum of means employed, but a sum of obstacles avoided: it is a negation rather than a positive reality. So, as we have shown in a former study, vision is a power which should attain by right an infinity of things inaccessible to our eyes. But such a vision would not be continued into action; it might suit a phantom, but not a living being. The vision of a living being is an effective vision, limited to objects on which the being can act: it is a vision that is canalized, and the visual apparatus simply symbolizes the work of canalizing. Therefore the creation of the visual apparatus is no more explained by the assembling of its anatomic elements than the digging of a canal could be explained by the heaping up of the earth which might have formed its banks. A mechanistic theory would maintain that the earth had been brought cart-load by cart-load; finalism would add that it had not been dumped down at random, that the carters had followed a plan. But both theories would be mistaken, for the canal has been made in another way.
With greater precision, we may compare the process by which nature constructs an eye to the simple act by which we raise the hand. But we supposed at first that the hand met with no resistance. Let us now imagine that, instead of moving in air, the hand has to pass through iron filings which are compressed and offer resistance to it in proportion as it goes forward. At a certain moment the hand will have exhausted its effort, and, at this very moment, the filings will be massed and coordinated in a certain definite form, to wit, that of the hand that is stopped and of a part of the arm. Now, suppose that the hand and arm are invisible. Lookers-on will seek the reason of the arrangement in the filings themselves and in forces within the mass. Some will account for the position of each filing by the action exerted upon it by the neighboring filings: these are the mechanists. Others will prefer to think that a plan of the whole has presided over the detail of these elementary actions: they are the finalists. But the truth is that there has been merely one indivisible act, that of the hand passing through the filings: the inexhaustible detail of the movement of the grains, as well as the order of their final arrangement, expresses negatively, in a way, this undivided movement, being the unitary form of a resistance, and not a synthesis of positive elementary actions. For this reason, if the arrangement of the grains is termed an "effect" and the movement of the hand a "cause," it may indeed be said that the whole of the effect is explained by the whole of the cause, but to parts of the cause parts of the effect will in no wise correspond. In other words, neither mechanism nor finalism will here be in place, and we must resort to an explanation of a different kind. Now, in the hypothesis we propose, the relation of vision to the visual apparatus would be very nearly that of the hand to the iron filings that follow, canalize and limit its motion.
The greater the effort of the hand, the farther it will go into the filings. But at whatever point it stops, instantaneously and automatically the filings coordinate and find their equilibrium. So with vision and its organ. According as the undivided act constituting vision advances more or less, the materiality of the organ is made of a more or less considerable number of mutually coordinated elements, but the order is necessarily complete and perfect. It could not be partial, because, once again, the real process which gives rise to it has no parts. That is what neither mechanism nor finalism takes into account, and it is what we also fail to consider when we wonder at the marvelous structure of an instrument such as the eye. At the bottom of our wondering is always this idea, that it would have been possible for a part only of this coordination to have been realized, that the complete realization is a kind of special favor. This favor the finalists consider as dispensed to them all at once, by the final cause; the mechanists claim to obtain it little by little, by the effect of natural selection; but both see something positive in this coordination, and consequently something fractionable in its cause,—something which admits of every possible degree of achievement. In reality, the cause, though more or less intense, cannot produce its effect except in one piece, and completely finished. According as it goes further and further in the direction of vision, it gives the simple pigmentary masses of a lower organism, or the rudimentary eye of a Serpula, or the slightly differentiated eye of the Alciope, or the marvelously perfected eye of the bird; but all these organs, unequal as is their complexity, necessarily present an equal coordination. For this reason, no matter how distant two animal species may be from each other, if the progress toward vision has gone equally far in both, there is the same visual organ in each case, for the form of the organ only expresses the degree in which the exercise of the function has been obtained.
But, in speaking of a progress toward vision, are we not coming back to the old notion of finality? It would be so, undoubtedly, if this progress required the conscious or unconscious idea of an end to be attained. But it is really effected in virtue of the original impetus of life; it is implied in this movement itself, and that is just why it is found in independent lines of evolution. If now we are asked why and how it is implied therein, we reply that life is, more than anything else, a tendency to act on inert matter. The direction of this action is not predetermined; hence the unforeseeable variety of forms which life, in evolving, sows along its path. But this action always presents, to some extent, the character of contingency; it implies at least a rudiment of choice. Now a choice involves the anticipatory idea of several possible actions. Possibilities of action must therefore be marked out for the living being before the action itself. Visual perception is nothing else: the visible outlines of bodies are the design of our eventual action on them. Vision will be found, therefore, in different degrees in the most diverse animals, and it will appear in the same complexity of structure wherever it has reached the same degree of intensity.
We have dwelt on these resemblances of structure in general, and on the example of the eye in particular, because we had to define our attitude toward mechanism on the one hand and finalism on the other. It remains for us to describe it more precisely in itself. This we shall now do by showing the divergent results of evolution not as presenting analogies, but as themselves mutually complementary.
[Footnote 3: Matiere et memoire, Paris, 1896, chaps. ii. and iii.]
[Footnote 4: Calkins, Studies on the Life History of Protozoa (Archiv f. Entwicklungsmechanik, vol. xv., 1903, pp. 139-186).]
[Footnote 5: Sedgwick Minot, On Certain Phenomena of Growing Old (Proc. Amer. Assoc. for the Advancement of Science, 39th Meeting, Salem, 1891, pp. 271-288).]
[Footnote 6: Le Dantec, L'Individualite et l'erreur individualiste, Paris, 1905, pp. 84 ff.]
[Footnote 7: Metchnikoff, La Degenerescence senile (Annee biologique, iii., 1897, pp. 249 ff.). Cf. by the same author, La Nature humaine, Paris, 1903, pp. 312 ff.]
[Footnote 8: Roule, L'Embryologie generale, Paris, 1893, p. 319.]
[Footnote 9: The irreversibility of the series of living beings has been well set forth by Baldwin (Development and Evolution, New York, 1902; in particular p. 327).]
[Footnote 10: We have dwelt on this point and tried to make it clear in the Essai sur les donnees immediates de la conscience, pp. 140-151.]
[Footnote 11: In his fine work on Genius in Art (Le Genie dans l'art), M. Seailles develops this twofold thesis, that art is a continuation of nature and that life is creation. We should willingly accept the second formula; but by creation must we understand, as the author does, a synthesis of elements? Where the elements pre-exist, the synthesis that will be made is virtually given, being only one of the possible arrangements. This arrangement a superhuman intellect could have perceived in advance among all the possible ones that surround it. We hold, on the contrary, that in the domain of life the elements have no real and separate existence. They are manifold mental views of an indivisible process. And for that reason there is radical contingency in progress, incommensurability between what goes before and what follows—in short, duration.]
[Footnote 12: Butschli, Untersuchungen uber mikroskopische Schaume und das Protoplasma, Leipzig, 1892, First Part.]
[Footnote 13: Rhumbler, Versuch einer mechanischen Erklarung der indirekten Zell-und Kernteilung (Roux's Archiv, 1896).]
[Footnote 14: Berthold, Studien uber Protoplasmamechanik, Leipzig, 1886, p. 102. Cf. the explanation proposed by Le Dantec, Theorie nouvelle de la vie, Paris, 1896, p. 60.]
[Footnote 15: Cope, The Primary Factors of Organic Evolution, Chicago, 1896, pp. 475-484.]
[Footnote 16: Maupas, "Etude des infusoires cilies" (Arch. de zoologie experimentale, 1883, pp. 47, 491, 518, 549, in particular). P. Vignon, Recherches de cytologie generale sur les epitheliums, Paris, 1902, p. 655. A profound study of the motions of the Infusoria and a very penetrating criticism of the idea of tropism have been made recently by Jennings (Contributions to the Study of the Behavior of Lower Organisms, Washington, 1904). The "type of behavior" of these lower organisms, as Jennings defines it (pp. 237-252), is unquestionably of the psychological order.]
[Footnote 17: E.B. Wilson, The Cell in Development and Inheritance, New York, 1897, p. 330.]
[Footnote 18: Dastre, La Vie et la mort, p. 43.]
[Footnote 19: Laplace, Introduction a la theorie analytique des probabilites (OEuvres completes, vol. vii., Paris, 1886, p. vi.).]
[Footnote 20: Du Bois-Reymond, Uber die Grenzen des Naturerkennens, Leipzig, 1892.]
[Footnote 21: There are really two lines to follow in contemporary neo-vitalism: on the one hand, the assertion that pure mechanism is insufficient, which assumes great authority when made by such scientists as Driesch or Reinke, for example; and, on the other hand, the hypotheses which this vitalism superposes on mechanism (the "entelechies" of Driesch, and the "dominants" of Reinke, etc.). Of these two parts, the former is perhaps the more interesting. See the admirable studies of Driesch—Die Lokalisation morphogenetischer Vorgange, Leipzig, 1899; Die organischen Regulationen, Leipzig, 1901; Naturbegriffe und Natururteile, Leipzig, 1904; Der Vitalismus als Geschichte und als Lehre, Leipzig, 1905; and of Reinke—Die Welt als Tat, Berlin, 1899; Einleitung in die theoretische Biologie, Berlin, 1901; Philosophie der Botanik, Leipzig, 1905.]
[Footnote 22: P. Guerin, Les Connaissances actuelles sur la fecondation chez les phanerogames, Paris, 1904, pp. 144-148. Cf. Delage, L'Heredite, 2nd edition, 1903, pp. 140 ff.]
[Footnote 23: Mobius, Beitrage zur Lehre von der Fortpflanzung der Gewachse, Jena, 1897, pp. 203-206 in particular. Cf. Hartog, "Sur les phenomenes de reproduction" (Annee biologique, 1895, pp. 707-709).]
[Footnote 24: Paul Janet, Les Causes finales, Paris, 1876, p. 83.]
[Footnote 25: Ibid. p. 80.]
[Footnote 26: Darwin, Origin of Species, chap. ii.]
[Footnote 27: Bateson, Materials for the Study of Variation, London, 1894, especially pp. 567 ff. Cf. Scott, "Variations and Mutations" (American Journal of Science, Nov. 1894).]
[Footnote 28: De Vries, Die Mutationstheorie, Leipzig, 1901-1903. Cf., by the same author, Species and Varieties, Chicago, 1905.]
[Footnote 29: Darwin, Origin of Species, chap. vi.]
[Footnote 30: Darwin, Origin of Species, chap. i.]
[Footnote 31: On this homology of hair and teeth, see Brandt, "Uber ... eine mutmassliche Homologie der Haare und Zahne" (Biol. Centralblatt, vol. xviii., 1898, especially pp. 262 ff.).]
[Footnote 32: It seems, from later observations, that the transformation of Artemia is a more complex phenomenon than was first supposed. See on this subject Samter and Heymons, "Die Variation bei Artemia Salina" (Anhang zu den Abhandlungen der k. preussischen Akad. der Wissenschaften, 1902).]
[Footnote 33: Eimer, Orthogenesis der Schmetterlinge, Leipzig, 1897, p. 24. Cf. Die Entstehung der Arten, p. 53.]
[Footnote 34: Eimer, Die Entstehung der Arten, Jena, 1888, p. 25.]
[Footnote 35: Ibid. pp. 165 ff.]
[Footnote 36: Salensky, "Heteroblastie" (Proc. of the Fourth International Congress of Zoology, London, 1899, pp. 111-118). Salensky has coined this word to designate the cases in which organs that are equivalent, but of different embryological origin, are formed at the same points in animals related to each other.]
[Footnote 37: Wolff, "Die Regeneration der Urodelenlinse" (Arch. f. Entwicklungsmechanik, i., 1895, pp. 380 ff.).]
[Footnote 38: Fischel, "Uber die Regeneration der Linse" (Anat. Anzeiger, xiv., 1898, pp. 373-380).]
[Footnote 39: Cope, The Origin of the Fittest, 1887; The Primary Factors of Organic Evolution, 1896.]
[Footnote 40: Cuenot, "La Nouvelle Theorie transformiste" (Revue generale des sciences, 1894). Cf. Morgan, Evolution and Adaptation, London, 1903, p. 357.]
[Footnote 41: Brown-Sequard, "Nouvelles recherches sur l'epilepsie due a certaines lesions de la moelle epinieere et des nerfs rachidiens" (Arch. de physiologie, vol. ii., 1866, pp. 211, 422, and 497).]
[Footnote 42: Weismann, Aufsatze uber Vererbung, Jena, 1892, pp. 376-378, and also Vortrage uber Descendenztheorie, Jena, 1902, vol. ii., p. 76.]
[Footnote 43: Brown-Sequard, "Heredite d'une affection due a une cause accidentelle" (Arch. de physiologie, 1892, pp. 686 ff.).]
[Footnote 44: Voisin and Peron, "Recherches sur la toxicite urinaire chez les epileptiques" (Arch. de neurologie, vol. xxiv., 1892, and xxv., 1893. Cf. the work of Voisin, L'Epilepsie, Paris, 1897, pp. 125-133).]
[Footnote 45: Charrin, Delamare and Moussu, "Transmission experimentale aux descendants de lesions developpees chez les ascendants" (C.R. de l'Acad. des sciences, vol. cxxxv., 1902, p. 191). Cf. Morgan, Evolution and Adaptation, p. 257, and Delage, L'Heredite, 2nd edition, p. 388.]
[Footnote 46: Charrin and Delamare, "Heredite cellulaire" (C.R. de l'Acad. des sciences, vol. cxxxiii., 1901, pp. 69-71).]
[Footnote 47: Charrin, "L'Heredite pathologique" (Revue generale des sciences, 15 janvier 1896).]
[Footnote 48: Giard, Controverses transformistes, Paris, 1904, p. 147.]
[Footnote 49: Some analogous facts, however, have been noted, all in the vegetable world. See Blaringhem, "La Notion d'espece et la theorie de la mutation" (Annee psychologique, vol. xii., 1906, pp. 95 ff.), and De Vries, Species and Varieties, p. 655.]
[Footnote 50: See, on this subject, Matiere et memoire, chap. i.]
THE DIVERGENT DIRECTIONS OF THE EVOLUTION OF LIFE. TORPOR, INTELLIGENCE, INSTINCT
The evolution movement would be a simple one, and we should soon have been able to determine its direction, if life had described a single course, like that of a solid ball shot from a cannon. But it proceeds rather like a shell, which suddenly bursts into fragments, which fragments, being themselves shells, burst in their turn into fragments destined to burst again, and so on for a time incommensurably long. We perceive only what is nearest to us, namely, the scattered movements of the pulverized explosions. From them we have to go back, stage by stage, to the original movement.
When a shell bursts, the particular way it breaks is explained both by the explosive force of the powder it contains and by the resistance of the metal. So of the way life breaks into individuals and species. It depends, we think, on two series of causes: the resistance life meets from inert matter, and the explosive force—due to an unstable balance of tendencies—which life bears within itself.
The resistance of inert matter was the obstacle that had first to be overcome. Life seems to have succeeded in this by dint of humility, by making itself very small and very insinuating, bending to physical and chemical forces, consenting even to go a part of the way with them, like the switch that adopts for a while the direction of the rail it is endeavoring to leave. Of phenomena in the simplest forms of life, it is hard to say whether they are still physical and chemical or whether they are already vital. Life had to enter thus into the habits of inert matter, in order to draw it little by little, magnetized, as it were, to another track. The animate forms that first appeared were therefore of extreme simplicity. They were probably tiny masses of scarcely differentiated protoplasm, outwardly resembling the amoeba observable to-day, but possessed of the tremendous internal push that was to raise them even to the highest forms of life. That in virtue of this push the first organisms sought to grow as much as possible, seems likely. But organized matter has a limit of expansion that is very quickly reached; beyond a certain point it divides instead of growing. Ages of effort and prodigies of subtlety were probably necessary for life to get past this new obstacle. It succeeded in inducing an increasing number of elements, ready to divide, to remain united. By the division of labor it knotted between them an indissoluble bond. The complex and quasi-discontinuous organism is thus made to function as would a continuous living mass which had simply grown bigger.
But the real and profound causes of division were those which life bore within its bosom. For life is tendency, and the essence of a tendency is to develop in the form of a sheaf, creating, by its very growth, divergent directions among which its impetus is divided. This we observe in ourselves, in the evolution of that special tendency which we call our character. Each of us, glancing back over his history, will find that his child-personality, though indivisible, united in itself divers persons, which could remain blended just because they were in their nascent state: this indecision, so charged with promise, is one of the greatest charms of childhood. But these interwoven personalities become incompatible in course of growth, and, as each of us can live but one life, a choice must perforce be made. We choose in reality without ceasing; without ceasing, also, we abandon many things. The route we pursue in time is strewn with the remains of all that we began to be, of all that we might have become. But nature, which has at command an incalculable number of lives, is in no wise bound to make such sacrifices. She preserves the different tendencies that have bifurcated with their growth. She creates with them diverging series of species that will evolve separately.
These series may, moreover, be of unequal importance. The author who begins a novel puts into his hero many things which he is obliged to discard as he goes on. Perhaps he will take them up later in other books, and make new characters with them, who will seem like extracts from, or rather like complements of, the first; but they will almost always appear somewhat poor and limited in comparison with the original character. So with regard to the evolution of life. The bifurcations on the way have been numerous, but there have been many blind alleys beside the two or three highways; and of these highways themselves, only one, that which leads through the vertebrates up to man, has been wide enough to allow free passage to the full breath of life. We get this impression when we compare the societies of bees and ants, for instance, with human societies. The former are admirably ordered and united, but stereotyped; the latter are open to every sort of progress, but divided, and incessantly at strife with themselves. The ideal would be a society always in progress and always in equilibrium, but this ideal is perhaps unrealizable: the two characteristics that would fain complete each other, which do complete each other in their embryonic state, can no longer abide together when they grow stronger. If one could speak, otherwise than metaphorically, of an impulse toward social life, it might be said that the brunt of the impulse was borne along the line of evolution ending at man, and that the rest of it was collected on the road leading to the hymenoptera: the societies of ants and bees would thus present the aspect complementary to ours. But this would be only a manner of expression. There has been no particular impulse towards social life; there is simply the general movement of life, which on divergent lines is creating forms ever new. If societies should appear on two of these lines, they ought to show divergence of paths at the same time as community of impetus. They will thus develop two classes of characteristics which we shall find vaguely complementary of each other.
So our study of the evolution movement will have to unravel a certain number of divergent directions, and to appreciate the importance of what has happened along each of them—in a word, to determine the nature of the dissociated tendencies and estimate their relative proportion. Combining these tendencies, then, we shall get an approximation, or rather an imitation, of the indivisible motor principle whence their impetus proceeds. Evolution will thus prove to be something entirely different from a series of adaptations to circumstances, as mechanism claims; entirely different also from the realization of a plan of the whole, as maintained by the doctrine of finality.
* * * * *
That adaptation to environment is the necessary condition of evolution we do not question for a moment. It is quite evident that a species would disappear, should it fail to bend to the conditions of existence which are imposed on it. But it is one thing to recognize that outer circumstances are forces evolution must reckon with, another to claim that they are the directing causes of evolution. This latter theory is that of mechanism. It excludes absolutely the hypothesis of an original impetus, I mean an internal push that has carried life, by more and more complex forms, to higher and higher destinies. Yet this impetus is evident, and a mere glance at fossil species shows us that life need not have evolved at all, or might have evolved only in very restricted limits, if it had chosen the alternative, much more convenient to itself, of becoming anchylosed in its primitive forms. Certain Foraminifera have not varied since the Silurian epoch. Unmoved witnesses of the innumerable revolutions that have upheaved our planet, the Lingulae are to-day what they were at the remotest times of the paleozoic era.
The truth is that adaptation explains the sinuosities of the movement of evolution, but not its general directions, still less the movement itself. The road that leads to the town is obliged to follow the ups and downs of the hills; it adapts itself to the accidents of the ground; but the accidents of the ground are not the cause of the road, nor have they given it its direction. At every moment they furnish it with what is indispensable, namely, the soil on which it lies; but if we consider the whole of the road, instead of each of its parts, the accidents of the ground appear only as impediments or causes of delay, for the road aims simply at the town and would fain be a straight line. Just so as regards the evolution of life and the circumstances through which it passes—with this difference, that evolution does not mark out a solitary route, that it takes directions without aiming at ends, and that it remains inventive even in its adaptations.
But, if the evolution of life is something other than a series of adaptations to accidental circumstances, so also it is not the realization of a plan. A plan is given in advance. It is represented, or at least representable, before its realization. The complete execution of it may be put off to a distant future, or even indefinitely; but the idea is none the less formulable at the present time, in terms actually given. If, on the contrary, evolution is a creation unceasingly renewed, it creates, as it goes on, not only the forms of life, but the ideas that will enable the intellect to understand it, the terms which will serve to express it. That is to say that its future overflows its present, and can not be sketched out therein in an idea.
There is the first error of finalism. It involves another, yet more serious.
If life realizes a plan, it ought to manifest a greater harmony the further it advances, just as the house shows better and better the idea of the architect as stone is set upon stone. If, on the contrary, the unity of life is to be found solely in the impetus that pushes it along the road of time, the harmony is not in front, but behind. The unity is derived from a vis a tergo: it is given at the start as an impulsion, not placed at the end as an attraction. In communicating itself, the impetus splits up more and more. Life, in proportion to its progress, is scattered in manifestations which undoubtedly owe to their common origin the fact that they are complementary to each other in certain aspects, but which are none the less mutually incompatible and antagonistic. So the discord between species will go on increasing. Indeed, we have as yet only indicated the essential cause of it. We have supposed, for the sake of simplicity, that each species received the impulsion in order to pass it on to others, and that, in every direction in which life evolves, the propagation is in a straight line. But, as a matter of fact, there are species which are arrested; there are some that retrogress. Evolution is not only a movement forward; in many cases we observe a marking-time, and still more often a deviation or turning back. It must be so, as we shall show further on, and the same causes that divide the evolution movement often cause life to be diverted from itself, hypnotized by the form it has just brought forth. Thence results an increasing disorder. No doubt there is progress, if progress mean a continual advance in the general direction determined by a first impulsion; but this progress is accomplished only on the two or three great lines of evolution on which forms ever more and more complex, ever more and more high, appear; between these lines run a crowd of minor paths in which, on the contrary, deviations, arrests, and set-backs, are multiplied. The philosopher, who begins by laying down as a principle that each detail is connected with some general plan of the whole, goes from one disappointment to another as soon as he comes to examine the facts; and, as he had put everything in the same rank, he finds that, as the result of not allowing for accident, he must regard everything as accidental. For accident, then, an allowance must first be made, and a very liberal allowance. We must recognize that all is not coherent in nature. By so doing, we shall be led to ascertain the centres around which the incoherence crystallizes. This crystallization itself will clarify the rest; the main directions will appear, in which life is moving whilst developing the original impulse. True, we shall not witness the detailed accomplishment of a plan. Nature is more and better than a plan in course of realization. A plan is a term assigned to a labor: it closes the future whose form it indicates. Before the evolution of life, on the contrary, the portals of the future remain wide open. It is a creation that goes on for ever in virtue of an initial movement. This movement constitutes the unity of the organized world—a prolific unity, of an infinite richness, superior to any that the intellect could dream of, for the intellect is only one of its aspects or products.
But it is easier to define the method than to apply it. The complete interpretation of the evolution movement in the past, as we conceive it, would be possible only if the history of the development of the organized world were entirely known. Such is far from being the case. The genealogies proposed for the different species are generally questionable. They vary with their authors, with the theoretic views inspiring them, and raise discussions to which the present state of science does not admit of a final settlement. But a comparison of the different solutions shows that the controversy bears less on the main lines of the movement than on matters of detail; and so, by following the main lines as closely as possible, we shall be sure of not going astray. Moreover, they alone are important to us; for we do not aim, like the naturalist, at finding the order of succession of different species, but only at defining the principal directions of their evolution. And not all of these directions have the same interest for us: what concerns us particularly is the path that leads to man. We shall therefore not lose sight of the fact, in following one direction and another, that our main business is to determine the relation of man to the animal kingdom, and the place of the animal kingdom itself in the organized world as a whole.
* * * * *
To begin with the second point, let us say that no definite characteristic distinguishes the plant from the animal. Attempts to define the two kingdoms strictly have always come to naught. There is not a single property of vegetable life that is not found, in some degree, in certain animals; not a single characteristic feature of the animal that has not been seen in certain species or at certain moments in the vegetable world. Naturally, therefore, biologists enamored of clean-cut concepts have regarded the distinction between the two kingdoms as artificial. They would be right, if definition in this case must be made, as in the mathematical and physical sciences, according to certain statical attributes which belong to the object defined and are not found in any other. Very different, in our opinion, is the kind of definition which befits the sciences of life. There is no manifestation of life which does not contain, in a rudimentary state—either latent or potential,—the essential characters of most other manifestations. The difference is in the proportions. But this very difference of proportion will suffice to define the group, if we can establish that it is not accidental, and that the group as it evolves, tends more and more to emphasize these particular characters. In a word, the group must not be defined by the possession of certain characters, but by its tendency to emphasize them. From this point of view, taking tendencies rather than states into account, we find that vegetables and animals may be precisely defined and distinguished, and that they correspond to two divergent developments of life.
This divergence is shown, first, in the method of alimentation. We know that the vegetable derives directly from the air and water and soil the elements necessary to maintain life, especially carbon and nitrogen, which it takes in mineral form. The animal, on the contrary, cannot assimilate these elements unless they have already been fixed for it in organic substances by plants, or by animals which directly or indirectly owe them to plants; so that ultimately the vegetable nourishes the animal. True, this law allows of many exceptions among vegetables. We do not hesitate to class amongst vegetables the Drosera, the Dionaea, the Pinguicula, which are insectivorous plants. On the other hand, the fungi, which occupy so considerable a place in the vegetable world, feed like animals: whether they are ferments, saprophytes or parasites, it is to already formed organic substances that they owe their nourishment. It is therefore impossible to draw from this difference any static definition such as would automatically settle in any particular case the question whether we are dealing with a plant or an animal. But the difference may provide the beginning of a dynamic definition of the two kingdoms, in that it marks the two divergent directions in which vegetables and animals have taken their course. It is a remarkable fact that the fungi, which nature has spread all over the earth in such extraordinary profusion, have not been able to evolve. Organically they do not rise above tissues which, in the higher vegetables, are formed in the embryonic sac of the ovary, and precede the germinative development of the new individual. They might be called the abortive children of the vegetable world. Their different species are like so many blind alleys, as if, by renouncing the mode of alimentation customary amongst vegetables, they had been brought to a standstill on the highway of vegetable evolution. As to the Drosera, the Dionaea, and insectivorous plants in general, they are fed by their roots, like other plants; they too fix, by their green parts, the carbon of the carbonic acid in the atmosphere. Their faculty of capturing, absorbing and digesting insects must have arisen late, in quite exceptional cases where the soil was too poor to furnish sufficient nourishment. In a general way, then, if we attach less importance to the presence of special characters than to their tendency to develop, and if we regard as essential that tendency along which evolution has been able to continue indefinitely, we may say that vegetables are distinguished from animals by their power of creating organic matter out of mineral elements which they draw directly from the air and earth and water. But now we come to another difference, deeper than this, though not unconnected with it.
The animal, being unable to fix directly the carbon and nitrogen which are everywhere to be found, has to seek for its nourishment vegetables which have already fixed these elements, or animals which have taken them from the vegetable kingdom. So the animal must be able to move. From the amoeba, which thrusts out its pseudopodia at random to seize the organic matter scattered in a drop of water, up to the higher animals which have sense-organs with which to recognize their prey, locomotor organs to go and seize it, and a nervous system to coordinate their movements with their sensations, animal life is characterized, in its general direction, by mobility in space. In its most rudimentary form, the animal is a tiny mass of protoplasm enveloped at most in a thin albuminous pellicle which allows full freedom for change of shape and movement. The vegetable cell, on the contrary, is surrounded by a membrane of cellulose, which condemns it to immobility. And, from the bottom to the top of the vegetable kingdom, there are the same habits growing more and more sedentary, the plant having no need to move, and finding around it, in the air and water and soil in which it is placed, the mineral elements it can appropriate directly. It is true that phenomena of movement are seen in plants. Darwin has written a well-known work on the movements of climbing plants. He studied also the contrivances of certain insectivorous plants, such as the Drosera and the Dionaea, to seize their prey. The leaf-movements of the acacia, the sensitive plant, etc., are well known. Moreover, the circulation of the vegetable protoplasm within its sheath bears witness to its relationship to the protoplasm of animals, whilst in a large number of animal species (generally parasites) phenomena of fixation, analogous to those of vegetables, can be observed. Here, again, it would be a mistake to claim that fixity and mobility are the two characters which enable us to decide, by simple inspection alone, whether we have before us a plant or an animal. But fixity, in the animal, generally seems like a torpor into which the species has fallen, a refusal to evolve further in a certain direction; it is closely akin to parasitism and is accompanied by features that recall those of vegetable life. On the other hand, the movements of vegetables have neither the frequency nor the variety of those of animals. Generally, they involve only part of the organism and scarcely ever extend to the whole. In the exceptional cases in which a vague spontaneity appears in vegetables, it is as if we beheld the accidental awakening of an activity normally asleep. In short, although both mobility and fixity exist in the vegetable as in the animal world, the balance is clearly in favor of fixity in the one case and of mobility in the other. These two opposite tendencies are so plainly directive of the two evolutions that the two kingdoms might almost be defined by them. But fixity and mobility, again, are only superficial signs of tendencies that are still deeper.
Between mobility and consciousness there is an obvious relationship. No doubt, the consciousness of the higher organisms seems bound up with certain cerebral arrangements. The more the nervous system develops, the more numerous and more precise become the movements among which it can choose; the clearer, also, is the consciousness that accompanies them. But neither this mobility nor this choice nor consequently this consciousness involves as a necessary condition the presence of a nervous system; the latter has only canalized in definite directions, and brought up to a higher degree of intensity, a rudimentary and vague activity, diffused throughout the mass of the organized substance. The lower we descend in the animal series, the more the nervous centres are simplified, and the more, too, they separate from each other, till finally the nervous elements disappear, merged in the mass of a less differentiated organism. But it is the same with all the other apparatus, with all the other anatomical elements; and it would be as absurd to refuse consciousness to an animal because it has no brain as to declare it incapable of nourishing itself because it has no stomach. The truth is that the nervous system arises, like the other systems, from a division of labor. It does not create the function, it only brings it to a higher degree of intensity and precision by giving it the double form of reflex and voluntary activity. To accomplish a true reflex movement, a whole mechanism is necessary, set up in the spinal cord or the medulla. To choose voluntarily between several definite courses of action, cerebral centres are necessary, that is, crossways from which paths start, leading to motor mechanisms of diverse form but equal precision. But where nervous elements are not yet canalized, still less concentrated into a system, there is something from which, by a kind of splitting, both the reflex and the voluntary will arise, something which has neither the mechanical precision of the former nor the intelligent hesitations of the latter, but which, partaking of both it may be infinitesimally, is a reaction simply undecided, and therefore vaguely conscious. This amounts to saying that the humblest organism is conscious in proportion to its power to move freely. Is consciousness here, in relation to movement, the effect or the cause? In one sense it is the cause, since it has to direct locomotion. But in another sense it is the effect; for it is the motor activity that maintains it, and, once this activity disappears, consciousness dies away or rather falls asleep. In crustaceans such as the rhizocephala, which must formerly have shown a more differentiated structure, fixity and parasitism accompany the degeneration and almost complete disappearance of the nervous system. Since, in such a case, the progress of organization must have localized all the conscious activity in nervous centres, we may conjecture that consciousness is even weaker in animals of this kind than in organisms much less differentiated, which have never had nervous centres but have remained mobile.
How then could the plant, which is fixed in the earth and finds its food on the spot, have developed in the direction of conscious activity? The membrane of cellulose, in which the protoplasm wraps itself up, not only prevents the simplest vegetable organism from moving, but screens it also, in some measure, from those outer stimuli which act on the sensibility of the animal as irritants and prevent it from going to sleep. The plant is therefore unconscious. Here again, however, we must beware of radical distinctions. "Unconscious" and "conscious" are not two labels which can be mechanically fastened, the one on every vegetable cell, the other on all animals. While consciousness sleeps in the animal which has degenerated into a motionless parasite, it probably awakens in the vegetable that has regained liberty of movement, and awakens in just the degree to which the vegetable has reconquered this liberty. Nevertheless, consciousness and unconsciousness mark the directions in which the two kingdoms have developed, in this sense, that to find the best specimens of consciousness in the animal we must ascend to the highest representatives of the series, whereas, to find probable cases of vegetable consciousness, we must descend as low as possible in the scale of plants—down to the zoospores of the algae, for instance, and, more generally, to those unicellular organisms which may be said to hesitate between the vegetable form and animality. From this standpoint, and in this measure, we should define the animal by sensibility and awakened consciousness, the vegetable by consciousness asleep and by insensibility.
To sum up, the vegetable manufactures organic substances directly with mineral substances; as a rule, this aptitude enables it to dispense with movement and so with feeling. Animals, which are obliged to go in search of their food, have evolved in the direction of locomotor activity, and consequently of a consciousness more and more distinct, more and more ample.
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Now, it seems to us most probable that the animal cell and the vegetable cell are derived from a common stock, and that the first living organisms oscillated between the vegetable and animal form, participating in both at once. Indeed, we have just seen that the characteristic tendencies of the evolution of the two kingdoms, although divergent, coexist even now, both in the plant and in the animal. The proportion alone differs. Ordinarily, one of the two tendencies covers or crushes down the other, but in exceptional circumstances the suppressed one starts up and regains the place it had lost. The mobility and consciousness of the vegetable cell are not so sound asleep that they cannot rouse themselves when circumstances permit or demand it; and, on the other hand, the evolution of the animal kingdom has always been retarded, or stopped, or dragged back, by the tendency it has kept toward the vegetative life. However full, however overflowing the activity of an animal species may appear, torpor and unconsciousness are always lying in wait for it. It keeps up its role only by effort, at the price of fatigue. Along the route on which the animal has evolved, there have been numberless shortcomings and cases of decay, generally associated with parasitic habits; they are so many shuntings on to the vegetative life. Thus, everything bears out the belief that vegetable and animal are descended from a common ancestor which united the tendencies of both in a rudimentary state.
But the two tendencies mutually implied in this rudimentary form became dissociated as they grew. Hence the world of plants with its fixity and insensibility, hence the animals with their mobility and consciousness. There is no need, in order to explain this dividing into two, to bring in any mysterious force. It is enough to point out that the living being leans naturally toward what is most convenient to it, and that vegetables and animals have chosen two different kinds of convenience in the way of procuring the carbon and nitrogen they need. Vegetables continually and mechanically draw these elements from an environment that continually provides it. Animals, by action that is discontinuous, concentrated in certain moments, and conscious, go to find these bodies in organisms that have already fixed them. They are two different ways of being industrious, or perhaps we may prefer to say, of being idle. For this very reason we doubt whether nervous elements, however rudimentary, will ever be found in the plant. What corresponds in it to the directing will of the animal is, we believe, the direction in which it bends the energy of the solar radiation when it uses it to break the connection of the carbon with the oxygen in carbonic acid. What corresponds in it to the sensibility of the animal is the impressionability, quite of its kind, of its chlorophyl light. Now, a nervous system being pre-eminently a mechanism which serves as intermediary between sensations and volitions, the true "nervous system" of the plant seems to be the mechanism or rather chemicism sui generis which serves as intermediary between the impressionability of its chlorophyl to light and the producing of starch: which amounts to saying that the plant can have no nervous elements, and that the same impetus that has led the animal to give itself nerves and nerve centres must have ended, in the plant, in the chlorophyllian function.
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This first glance over the organized world will enable us to ascertain more precisely what unites the two kingdoms, and also what separates them.
Suppose, as we suggested in the preceding chapter, that at the root of life there is an effort to engraft on to the necessity of physical forces the largest possible amount of indetermination. This effort cannot result in the creation of energy, or, if it does, the quantity created does not belong to the order of magnitude apprehended by our senses and instruments of measurement, our experience and science. All that the effort can do, then, is to make the best of a pre-existing energy which it finds at its disposal. Now, it finds only one way of succeeding in this, namely, to secure such an accumulation of potential energy from matter, that it can get, at any moment, the amount of work it needs for its action, simply by pulling a trigger. The effort itself possesses only that power of releasing. But the work of releasing, although always the same and always smaller than any given quantity, will be the more effective the heavier the weight it makes fall and the greater the height—or, in other words, the greater the sum of potential energy accumulated and disposable. As a matter of fact, the principal source of energy usable on the surface of our planet is the sun. So the problem was this: to obtain from the sun that it should partially and provisionally suspend, here and there, on the surface of the earth, its continual outpour of usable energy, and store a certain quantity of it, in the form of unused energy, in appropriate reservoirs, whence it could be drawn at the desired moment, at the desired spot, in the desired direction. The substances forming the food of animals are just such reservoirs. Made of very complex molecules holding a considerable amount of chemical energy in the potential state, they are like explosives which only need a spark to set free the energy stored within them. Now, it is probable that life tended at the beginning to compass at one and the same time both the manufacture of the explosive and the explosion by which it is utilized. In this case, the same organism that had directly stored the energy of the solar radiation would have expended it in free movements in space. And for that reason we must presume that the first living beings sought on the one hand to accumulate, without ceasing, energy borrowed from the sun, and on the other hand to expend it, in a discontinuous and explosive way, in movements of locomotion. Even to-day, perhaps, a chlorophyl-bearing Infusorian such as the Euglena may symbolize this primordial tendency of life, though in a mean form, incapable of evolving. Is the divergent development of the two kingdoms related to what one may call the oblivion of each kingdom as regards one of the two halves of the programme? Or rather, which is more likely, was the very nature of the matter, that life found confronting it on our planet, opposed to the possibility of the two tendencies evolving very far together in the same organism? What is certain is that the vegetable has trended principally in the first direction and the animal in the second. But if, from the very first, in making the explosive, nature had for object the explosion, then it is the evolution of the animal, rather than that of the vegetable, that indicates, on the whole, the fundamental direction of life.
The "harmony" of the two kingdoms, the complementary characters they display, might then be due to the fact that they develop two tendencies which at first were fused in one. The more the single original tendency grows, the harder it finds it to keep united in the same living being those two elements which in the rudimentary state implied each other. Hence a parting in two, hence two divergent evolutions; hence also two series of characters opposed in certain points, complementary in others, but, whether opposed or complementary, always preserving an appearance of kinship. While the animal evolved, not without accidents along the way, toward a freer and freer expenditure of discontinuous energy, the plant perfected rather its system of accumulation without moving. We shall not dwell on this second point. Suffice it to say that the plant must have been greatly benefited, in its turn, by a new division, analogous to that between plants and animals. While the primitive vegetable cell had to fix by itself both its carbon and its nitrogen, it became able almost to give up the second of these two functions as soon as microscopic vegetables came forward which leaned in this direction exclusively, and even specialized diversely in this still complicated business. The microbes that fix the nitrogen of the air and those which convert the ammoniacal compounds into nitrous ones, and these again into nitrates, have, by the same splitting up of a tendency primitively one, rendered to the whole vegetable world the same kind of service as the vegetables in general have rendered to animals. If a special kingdom were to be made for these microscopic vegetables, it might be said that in the microbes of the soil, the vegetables and the animals, we have before us the analysis, carried out by the matter that life found at its disposal on our planet, of all that life contained, at the outset, in a state of reciprocal implication. Is this, properly speaking, a "division of labor"? These words do not give the exact idea of evolution, such as we conceive it. Wherever there is division of labor, there is association and also convergence of effort. Now, the evolution we are speaking of is never achieved by means of association, but by dissociation; it never tends toward convergence, but toward divergence of efforts. The harmony between terms that are mutually complementary in certain points is not, in our opinion, produced, in course of progress, by a reciprocal adaptation; on the contrary, it is complete only at the start. It arises from an original identity, from the fact that the evolutionary process, splaying out like a sheaf, sunders, in proportion to their simultaneous growth, terms which at first completed each other so well that they coalesced.
Now, the elements into which a tendency splits up are far from possessing the same importance, or, above all, the same power to evolve. We have just distinguished three different kingdoms, if one may so express it, in the organized world. While the first comprises only microorganisms which have remained in the rudimentary state, animals and vegetables have taken their flight toward very lofty fortunes. Such, indeed, is generally the case when a tendency divides. Among the divergent developments to which it gives rise, some go on indefinitely, others come more or less quickly to the end of their tether. These latter do not issue directly from the primitive tendency, but from one of the elements into which it has divided; they are residual developments made and left behind on the way by some truly elementary tendency which continues to evolve. Now, these truly elementary tendencies, we think, bear a mark by which they may be recognized.
This mark is like a trace, still visible in each, of what was in the original tendency of which they represent the elementary directions. The elements of a tendency are not like objects set beside each other in space and mutually exclusive, but rather like psychic states, each of which, although it be itself to begin with, yet partakes of others, and so virtually includes in itself the whole personality to which it belongs. There is no real manifestation of life, we said, that does not show us, in a rudimentary or latent state, the characters of other manifestations. Conversely, when we meet, on one line of evolution, a recollection, so to speak, of what is developed along other lines, we must conclude that we have before us dissociated elements of one and the same original tendency. In this sense, vegetables and animals represent the two great divergent developments of life. Though the plant is distinguished from the animal by fixity and insensibility, movement and consciousness sleep in it as recollections which may waken. But, beside these normally sleeping recollections, there are others awake and active, just those, namely, whose activity does not obstruct the development of the elementary tendency itself. We may then formulate this law: When a tendency splits up in the course of its development, each of the special tendencies which thus arise tries to preserve and develop everything in the primitive tendency that is not incompatible with the work for which it is specialized. This explains precisely the fact we dwelt on in the preceding chapter, viz., the formation of identical complex mechanisms on independent lines of evolution. Certain deep-seated analogies between the animal and the vegetable have probably no other cause: sexual generation is perhaps only a luxury for the plant, but to the animal it was a necessity, and the plant must have been driven to it by the same impetus which impelled the animal thereto, a primitive, original impetus, anterior to the separation of the two kingdoms. The same may be said of the tendency of the vegetable towards a growing complexity. This tendency is essential to the animal kingdom, ever tormented by the need of more and more extended and effective action. But the vegetable, condemned to fixity and insensibility, exhibits the same tendency only because it received at the outset the same impulsion. Recent experiments show that it varies at random when the period of "mutation" arrives; whereas the animal must have evolved, we believe, in much more definite directions. But we will not dwell further on this original doubling of the modes of life. Let us come to the evolution of animals, in which we are more particularly interested.
What constitutes animality, we said, is the faculty of utilizing a releasing mechanism for the conversion of as much stored-up potential energy as possible into "explosive" actions. In the beginning the explosion is haphazard, and does not choose its direction. Thus the amoeba thrusts out its pseudopodic prolongations in all directions at once. But, as we rise in the animal scale, the form of the body itself is observed to indicate a certain number of very definite directions along which the energy travels. These directions are marked by so many chains of nervous elements. Now, the nervous element has gradually emerged from the barely differentiated mass of organized tissue. It may, therefore, be surmised that in the nervous element, as soon as it appears, and also in its appendages, the faculty of suddenly freeing the gradually stored-up energy is concentrated. No doubt, every living cell expends energy without ceasing, in order to maintain its equilibrium. The vegetable cell, torpid from the start, is entirely absorbed in this work of maintenance alone, as if it took for end what must at first have been only a means. But, in the animal, all points to action, that is, to the utilization of energy for movements from place to place. True, every animal cell expends a good deal—often the whole—of the energy at its disposal in keeping itself alive; but the organism as a whole tries to attract as much energy as possible to those points where the locomotive movements are effected. So that where a nervous system exists, with its complementary sense-organs and motor apparatus, everything should happen as if the rest of the body had, as its essential function, to prepare for these and pass on to them, at the moment required, that force which they are to liberate by a sort of explosion.
The part played by food amongst the higher animals is, indeed, extremely complex. In the first place it serves to repair tissues, then it provides the animal with the heat necessary to render it as independent as possible of changes in external temperature. Thus it preserves, supports, and maintains the organism in which the nervous system is set and on which the nervous elements have to live. But these nervous elements would have no reason for existence if the organism did not pass to them, and especially to the muscles they control, a certain energy to expend; and it may even be conjectured that there, in the main, is the essential and ultimate destination of food. This does not mean that the greater part of the food is used in this work. A state may have to make enormous expenditure to secure the return of taxes, and the sum which it will have to dispose of, after deducting the cost of collection, will perhaps be very small: that sum is, none the less, the reason for the tax and for all that has been spent to obtain its return. So it is with the energy which the animal demands of its food.
Many facts seem to indicate that the nervous and muscular elements stand in this relation towards the rest of the organism. Glance first at the distribution of alimentary substances among the different elements of the living body. These substances fall into two classes, one the quaternary or albuminoid, the other the ternary, including the carbohydrates and the fats. The albuminoids are properly plastic, destined to repair the tissues—although, owing to the carbon they contain, they are capable of providing energy on occasion. But the function of supplying energy has devolved more particularly on the second class of substances: these, being deposited in the cell rather than forming part of its substance, convey to it, in the form of chemical potential, an expansive energy that may be directly converted into either movement or heat. In short, the chief function of the albuminoids is to repair the machine, while the function of the other class of substances is to supply power. It is natural that the albuminoids should have no specially allotted destination, since every part of the machine has to be maintained. But not so with the other substances. The carbohydrates are distributed very unequally, and this inequality of distribution seems to us in the highest degree instructive.
Conveyed by the arterial blood in the form of glucose, these substances are deposited, in the form of glycogen, in the different cells forming the tissues. We know that one of the principal functions of the liver is to maintain at a constant level the quantity of glucose held by the blood, by means of the reserves of glycogen secreted by the hepatic cells. Now, in this circulation of glucose and accumulation of glycogen, it is easy to see that the effect is as if the whole effort of the organism were directed towards providing with potential energy the elements of both the muscular and the nervous tissues. The organism proceeds differently in the two cases, but it arrives at the same result. In the first case, it provides the muscle-cell with a large reserve deposited in advance: the quantity of glycogen contained in the muscles is, indeed, enormous in comparison with what is found in the other tissues. In the nervous tissue, on the contrary, the reserve is small (the nervous elements, whose function is merely to liberate the potential energy stored in the muscle, never have to furnish much work at one time); but the remarkable thing is that this reserve is restored by the blood at the very moment that it is expended, so that the nerve is instantly recharged with potential energy. Muscular tissue and nervous tissue are, therefore, both privileged, the one in that it is stocked with a large reserve of energy, the other in that it is always served at the instant it is in need and to the exact extent of its requirements.
More particularly, it is from the sensori-motor system that the call for glycogen, the potential energy, comes, as if the rest of the organism were simply there in order to transmit force to the nervous system and to the muscles which the nerves control. True, when we think of the part played by the nervous system (even the sensori-motor system) as regulator of the organic life, it may well be asked whether, in this exchange of good offices between it and the rest of the body, the nervous system is indeed a master that the body serves. But we shall already incline to this hypothesis when we consider, even in the static state only, the distribution of potential energy among the tissues; and we shall be entirely convinced of it when we reflect upon the conditions in which the energy is expended and restored. For suppose the sensori-motor system is a system like the others, of the same rank as the others. Borne by the whole of the organism, it will wait until an excess of chemical potential is supplied to it before it performs any work. In other words, it is the production of glycogen which will regulate the consumption by the nerves and muscles. On the contrary, if the sensori-motor system is the actual master, the duration and extent of its action will be independent, to a certain extent at least, of the reserve of glycogen that it holds, and even of that contained in the whole of the organism. It will perform work, and the other tissues will have to arrange as they can to supply it with potential energy. Now, this is precisely what does take place, as is shown in particular by the experiments of Morat and Dufourt. While the glycogenic function of the liver depends on the action of the excitory nerves which control it, the action of these nerves is subordinated to the action of those which stimulate the locomotor muscles—in this sense, that the muscles begin by expending without calculation, thus consuming glycogen, impoverishing the blood of its glucose, and finally causing the liver, which has had to pour into the impoverished blood some of its reserve of glycogen, to manufacture a fresh supply. From the sensori-motor system, then, everything starts; on that system everything converges; and we may say, without metaphor, that the rest of the organism is at its service.
Consider again what happens in a prolonged fast. It is a remarkable fact that in animals that have died of hunger the brain is found to be almost unimpaired, while the other organs have lost more or less of their weight and their cells have undergone profound changes. It seems as though the rest of the body had sustained the nervous system to the last extremity, treating itself simply as the means of which the nervous system is the end.
To sum up: if we agree, in short, to understand by "the sensori-motor system" the cerebro-spinal nervous system together with the sensorial apparatus in which it is prolonged and the locomotor muscles it controls, we may say that a higher organism is essentially a sensori-motor system installed on systems of digestion, respiration, circulation, secretion, etc., whose function it is to repair, cleanse and protect it, to create an unvarying internal environment for it, and above all to pass it potential energy to convert into locomotive movement. It is true that the more the nervous function is perfected, the more must the functions required to maintain it develop, and the more exacting, consequently, they become for themselves. As the nervous activity has emerged from the protoplasmic mass in which it was almost drowned, it has had to summon around itself activities of all kinds for its support. These could only be developed on other activities, which again implied others, and so on indefinitely. Thus it is that the complexity of functioning of the higher organisms goes on to infinity. The study of one of these organisms therefore takes us round in a circle, as if everything was a means to everything else. But the circle has a centre, none the less, and that is the system of nervous elements stretching between the sensory organs and the motor apparatus.
We will not dwell here on a point we have treated at length in a former work. Let us merely recall that the progress of the nervous system has been effected both in the direction of a more precise adaptation of movements and in that of a greater latitude left to the living being to choose between them. These two tendencies may appear antagonistic, and indeed they are so; but a nervous chain, even in its most rudimentary form, successfully reconciles them. On the one hand, it marks a well-defined track between one point of the periphery and another, the one sensory, the other motor. It has therefore canalized an activity which was originally diffused in the protoplasmic mass. But, on the other hand, the elements that compose it are probably discontinuous; at any rate, even supposing they anastomose, they exhibit a functional discontinuity, for each of them ends in a kind of cross-road where probably the nervous current may choose its course. From the humblest Monera to the best endowed insects, and up to the most intelligent vertebrates, the progress realized has been above all a progress of the nervous system, coupled at every stage with all the new constructions and complications of mechanism that this progress required. As we foreshadowed in the beginning of this work, the role of life is to insert some indetermination into matter. Indeterminate, i.e. unforeseeable, are the forms it creates in the course of its evolution. More and more indeterminate also, more and more free, is the activity to which these forms serve as the vehicle. A nervous system, with neurones placed end to end in such wise that, at the extremity of each, manifold ways open in which manifold questions present themselves, is a veritable reservoir of indetermination. That the main energy of the vital impulse has been spent in creating apparatus of this kind is, we believe, what a glance over the organized world as a whole easily shows. But concerning the vital impulse itself a few explanations are necessary.
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It must not be forgotten that the force which is evolving throughout the organized world is a limited force, which is always seeking to transcend itself and always remains inadequate to the work it would fain produce. The errors and puerilities of radical finalism are due to the misapprehension of this point. It has represented the whole of the living world as a construction, and a construction analogous to a human work. All the pieces have been arranged with a view to the best possible functioning of the machine. Each species has its reason for existence, its part to play, its allotted place; and all join together, as it were, in a musical concert, wherein the seeming discords are really meant to bring out a fundamental harmony. In short, all goes on in nature as in the works of human genius, where, though the result may be trifling, there is at least perfect adequacy between the object made and the work of making it.
Nothing of the kind in the evolution of life. There, the disproportion is striking between the work and the result. From the bottom to the top of the organized world we do indeed find one great effort; but most often this effort turns short, sometimes paralyzed by contrary forces, sometimes diverted from what it should do by what it does, absorbed by the form it is engaged in taking, hypnotized by it as by a mirror. Even in its most perfect works, though it seems to have triumphed over external resistances and also over its own, it is at the mercy of the materiality which it has had to assume. It is what each of us may experience in himself. Our freedom, in the very movements by which it is affirmed, creates the growing habits that will stifle it if it fails to renew itself by a constant effort: it is dogged by automatism. The most living thought becomes frigid in the formula that expresses it. The word turns against the idea.
The letter kills the spirit. And our most ardent enthusiasm, as soon as it is externalized into action, is so naturally congealed into the cold calculation of interest or vanity, the one takes so easily the shape of the other, that we might confuse them together, doubt our own sincerity, deny goodness and love, if we did not know that the dead retain for a time the features of the living.
The profound cause of this discordance lies in an irremediable difference of rhythm. Life in general is mobility itself; particular manifestations of life accept this mobility reluctantly, and constantly lag behind. It is always going ahead; they want to mark time. Evolution in general would fain go on in a straight line; each special evolution is a kind of circle. Like eddies of dust raised by the wind as it passes, the living turn upon themselves, borne up by the great blast of life. They are therefore relatively stable, and counterfeit immobility so well that we treat each of them as a thing rather than as a progress, forgetting that the very permanence of their form is only the outline of a movement. At times, however, in a fleeting vision, the invisible breath that bears them is materialized before our eyes. We have this sudden illumination before certain forms of maternal love, so striking, and in most animals so touching, observable even in the solicitude of the plant for its seed. This love, in which some have seen the great mystery of life, may possibly deliver us life's secret. It shows us each generation leaning over the generation that shall follow. It allows us a glimpse of the fact that the living being is above all a thoroughfare, and that the essence of life is in the movement by which life is transmitted.
This contrast between life in general, and the forms in which it is manifested, has everywhere the same character. It might be said that life tends toward the utmost possible action, but that each species prefers to contribute the slightest possible effort. Regarded in what constitutes its true essence, namely, as a transition from species to species, life is a continually growing action. But each of the species, through which life passes, aims only at its own convenience. It goes for that which demands the least labor. Absorbed in the form it is about to take, it falls into a partial sleep, in which it ignores almost all the rest of life; it fashions itself so as to take the greatest possible advantage of its immediate environment with the least possible trouble. Accordingly, the act by which life goes forward to the creation of a new form, and the act by which this form is shaped, are two different and often antagonistic movements. The first is continuous with the second, but cannot continue in it without being drawn aside from its direction, as would happen to a man leaping, if, in order to clear the obstacle, he had to turn his eyes from it and look at himself all the while.
Living forms are, by their very definition, forms that are able to live. In whatever way the adaptation of the organism to its circumstances is explained, it has necessarily been sufficient, since the species has subsisted. In this sense, each of the successive species that paleontology and zoology describes was a success carried off by life. But we get a very different impression when we refer each species to the movement that has left it behind on its way, instead of to the conditions into which it has been set. Often this movement has turned aside; very often, too, it has stopped short; what was to have been a thoroughfare has become a terminus. From this new point of view, failure seems the rule, success exceptional and always imperfect. We shall see that, of the four main directions along which animal life bent its course, two have led to blind alleys, and, in the other two, the effort has generally been out of proportion to the result.
Documents are lacking to reconstruct this history in detail, but we can make out its main lines. We have already said that animals and vegetables must have separated soon from their common stock, the vegetable falling asleep in immobility, the animal, on the contrary, becoming more and more awake and marching on to the conquest of a nervous system. Probably the effort of the animal kingdom resulted in creating organisms still very simple, but endowed with a certain freedom of action, and, above all, with a shape so undecided that it could lend itself to any future determination. These animals may have resembled some of our worms, but with this difference, however, that the worms living to-day, to which they could be compared, are but the empty and fixed examples of infinitely plastic forms, pregnant with an unlimited future, the common stock of the echinoderms, molluscs, arthropods, and vertebrates.
One danger lay in wait for them, one obstacle which might have stopped the soaring course of animal life. There is one peculiarity with which we cannot help being struck when glancing over the fauna of primitive times, namely, the imprisonment of the animal in a more or less solid sheath, which must have obstructed and often even paralyzed its movements. The molluscs of that time had a shell more universally than those of to-day. The arthropods in general were provided with a carapace; most of them were crustaceans. The more ancient fishes had a bony sheath of extreme hardness. The explanation of this general fact should be sought, we believe, in a tendency of soft organisms to defend themselves against one another by making themselves, as far as possible, undevourable. Each species, in the act by which it comes into being, trends towards that which is most expedient. Just as among primitive organisms there were some that turned towards animal life by refusing to manufacture organic out of inorganic material and taking organic substances ready made from organisms that had turned toward the vegetative life, so, among the animal species themselves, many contrived to live at the expense of other animals. For an organism that is animal, that is to say mobile, can avail itself of its mobility to go in search of defenseless animals, and feed on them quite as well as on vegetables. So, the more species became mobile, the more they became voracious and dangerous to one another. Hence a sudden arrest of the entire animal world in its progress towards higher and higher mobility; for the hard and calcareous skin of the echinoderm, the shell of the mollusc, the carapace of the crustacean and the ganoid breast-plate of the ancient fishes probably all originated in a common effort of the animal species to protect themselves against hostile species. But this breast-plate, behind which the animal took shelter, constrained it in its movements and sometimes fixed it in one place. If the vegetable renounced consciousness in wrapping itself in a cellulose membrane, the animal that shut itself up in a citadel or in armor condemned itself to a partial slumber. In this torpor the echinoderms and even the molluscs live to-day. Probably arthropods and vertebrates were threatened with it too. They escaped, however, and to this fortunate circumstance is due the expansion of the highest forms of life.
In two directions, in fact, we see the impulse of life to movement getting the upper hand again. The fishes exchanged their ganoid breast-plate for scales. Long before that, the insects had appeared, also disencumbered of the breast-plate that had protected their ancestors. Both supplemented the insufficiency of their protective covering by an agility that enabled them to escape their enemies, and also to assume the offensive, to choose the place and the moment of encounter. We see a progress of the same kind in the evolution of human armaments. The first impulse is to seek shelter; the second, which is the better, is to become as supple as possible for flight and above all for attack—attack being the most effective means of defense. So the heavy hoplite was supplanted by the legionary; the knight, clad in armor, had to give place to the light free-moving infantryman; and in a general way, in the evolution of life, just as in the evolution of human societies and of individual destinies, the greatest successes have been for those who have accepted the heaviest risks.
Evidently, then, it was to the animal's interest to make itself more mobile. As we said when speaking of adaptation in general, any transformation of a species can be explained by its own particular interest. This will give the immediate cause of the variation, but often only the most superficial cause. The profound cause is the impulse which thrust life into the world, which made it divide into vegetables and animals, which shunted the animal on to suppleness of form, and which, at a certain moment, in the animal kingdom threatened with torpor, secured that, on some points at least, it should rouse itself up and move forward.
On the two paths along which the vertebrates and arthropods have separately evolved, development (apart from retrogressions connected with parasitism or any other cause) has consisted above all in the progress of the sensori-motor nervous system. Mobility and suppleness were sought for, and also—through many experimental attempts, and not without a tendency to excess of substance and brute force at the start—variety of movements. But this quest itself took place in divergent directions. A glance at the nervous system of the arthropods and that of the vertebrates shows us the difference. In the arthropods, the body is formed of a series more or less long of rings set together; motor activity is thus distributed amongst a varying—sometimes a considerable—number of appendages, each of which has its special function. In the vertebrates, activity is concentrated in two pairs of members only, and these organs perform functions which depend much less strictly on their form. The independence becomes complete in man, whose hand is capable of any kind of work.
That, at least, is what we see. But behind what is seen there is what may be surmised—two powers, immanent in life and originally intermingled, which were bound to part company in course of growth.
To define these powers, we must consider, in the evolution both of the arthropods and the vertebrates, the species which mark the culminating point of each. How is this point to be determined? Here again, to aim at geometrical precision will lead us astray. There is no single simple sign by which we can recognize that one species is more advanced than another on the same line of evolution. There are manifold characters, that must be compared and weighed in each particular case, in order to ascertain to what extent they are essential or accidental and how far they must be taken into account.
It is unquestionable, for example, that success is the most general criterion of superiority, the two terms being, up to a certain point, synonymous. By success must be understood, so far as the living being is concerned, an aptitude to develop in the most diverse environments, through the greatest possible variety of obstacles, so as to cover the widest possible extent of ground. A species which claims the entire earth for its domain is truly a dominating and consequently superior species. Such is the human species, which represents the culminating point of the evolution of the vertebrates. But such also are, in the series of the articulate, the insects and in particular certain hymenoptera. It has been said of the ants that, as man is lord of the soil, they are lords of the sub-soil.
On the other hand, a group of species that has appeared late may be a group of degenerates; but, for that, some special cause of retrogression must have intervened. By right, this group should be superior to the group from which it is derived, since it would correspond to a more advanced stage of evolution. Now man is probably the latest comer of the vertebrates; and in the insect series no species is later than the hymenoptera, unless it be the lepidoptera, which are probably degenerates, living parasitically on flowering plants.
So, by different ways, we are led to the same conclusion. The evolution of the arthropods reaches its culminating point in the insect, and in particular in the hymenoptera, as that of the vertebrates in man. Now, since instinct is nowhere so developed as in the insect world, and in no group of insects so marvelously as in the hymenoptera, it may be said that the whole evolution of the animal kingdom, apart from retrogressions towards vegetative life, has taken place on two divergent paths, one of which led to instinct and the other to intelligence.
Vegetative torpor, instinct, and intelligence—these, then, are the elements that coincided in the vital impulsion common to plants and animals, and which, in the course of a development in which they were made manifest in the most unforeseen forms, have been dissociated by the very fact of their growth. The cardinal error which, from Aristotle onwards, has vitiated most of the philosophies of nature, is to see in vegetative, instinctive and rational life, three successive degrees of the development of one and the same tendency, whereas they are three divergent directions of an activity that has split up as it grew. The difference between them is not a difference of intensity, nor, more generally, of degree, but of kind.
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It is important to investigate this point. We have seen in the case of vegetable and animal life how they are at once mutually complementary and mutually antagonistic. Now we must show that intelligence and instinct also are opposite and complementary. But let us first explain why we are generally led to regard them as activities of which one is superior to the other and based upon it, whereas in reality they are not things of the same order: they have not succeeded one another, nor can we assign to them different grades.
It is because intelligence and instinct, having originally been interpenetrating, retain something of their common origin. Neither is ever found in a pure state. We said that in the plant the consciousness and mobility of the animal, which lie dormant, can be awakened; and that the animal lives under the constant menace of being drawn aside to the vegetative life. The two tendencies—that of the plant and that of the animal—were so thoroughly interpenetrating, to begin with, that there has never been a complete severance between them: they haunt each other continually; everywhere we find them mingled; it is the proportion that differs. So with intelligence and instinct. There is no intelligence in which some traces of instinct are not to be discovered, more especially no instinct that is not surrounded with a fringe of intelligence. It is this fringe of intelligence that has been the cause of so many misunderstandings. From the fact that instinct is always more or less intelligent, it has been concluded that instinct and intelligence are things of the same kind, that there is only a difference of complexity or perfection between them, and, above all, that one of the two is expressible in terms of the other. In reality, they accompany each other only because they are complementary, and they are complementary only because they are different, what is instinctive in instinct being opposite to what is intelligent in intelligence.
We are bound to dwell on this point. It is one of the utmost importance.
Let us say at the outset that the distinctions we are going to make will be too sharply drawn, just because we wish to define in instinct what is instinctive, and in intelligence what is intelligent, whereas all concrete instinct is mingled with intelligence, as all real intelligence is penetrated by instinct. Moreover, neither intelligence nor instinct lends itself to rigid definition: they are tendencies, and not things. Also, it must not be forgotten that in the present chapter we are considering intelligence and instinct as going out of life which deposits them along its course. Now the life manifested by an organism is, in our view, a certain effort to obtain certain things from the material world. No wonder, therefore, if it is the diversity of this effort that strikes us in instinct and intelligence, and if we see in these two modes of psychical activity, above all else, two different methods of action on inert matter. This rather narrow view of them has the advantage of giving us an objective means of distinguishing them. In return, however, it gives us, of intelligence in general and of instinct in general, only the mean position above and below which both constantly oscillate. For that reason the reader must expect to see in what follows only a diagrammatic drawing, in which the respective outlines of intelligence and instinct are sharper than they should be, and in which the shading-off which comes from the indecision of each and from their reciprocal encroachment on one another is neglected. In a matter so obscure, we cannot strive too hard for clearness. It will always be easy afterwards to soften the outlines and to correct what is too geometrical in the drawing—in short, to replace the rigidity of a diagram by the suppleness of life.
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To what date is it agreed to ascribe the appearance of man on the earth? To the period when the first weapons, the first tools, were made. The memorable quarrel over the discovery of Boucher de Perthes in the quarry of Moulin-Quignon is not forgotten. The question was whether real hatchets had been found or merely bits of flint accidentally broken. But that, supposing they were hatchets, we were indeed in the presence of intelligence, and more particularly of human intelligence, no one doubted for an instant. Now let us open a collection of anecdotes on the intelligence of animals: we shall see that besides many acts explicable by imitation or by the automatic association of images, there are some that we do not hesitate to call intelligent: foremost among them are those that bear witness to some idea of manufacture, whether the animal life succeeds in fashioning a crude instrument or uses for its profit an object made by man. The animals that rank immediately after man in the matter of intelligence, the apes and elephants, are those that can use an artificial instrument occasionally. Below, but not very far from them, come those that recognize a constructed object: for example, the fox, which knows quite well that a trap is a trap. No doubt, there is intelligence wherever there is inference; but inference, which consists in an inflection of past experience in the direction of present experience, is already a beginning of invention. Invention becomes complete when it is materialized in a manufactured instrument. Towards that achievement the intelligence of animals tends as towards an ideal. And though, ordinarily, it does not yet succeed in fashioning artificial objects and in making use of them, it is preparing for this by the very variations which it performs on the instincts furnished by nature. As regards human intelligence, it has not been sufficiently noted that mechanical invention has been from the first its essential feature, that even to-day our social life gravitates around the manufacture and use of artificial instruments, that the inventions which strew the road of progress have also traced its direction. This we hardly realize, because it takes us longer to change ourselves than to change our tools. Our individual and even social habits survive a good while the circumstances for which they were made, so that the ultimate effects of an invention are not observed until its novelty is already out of sight. A century has elapsed since the invention of the steam-engine, and we are only just beginning to feel the depths of the shock it gave us. But the revolution it has effected in industry has nevertheless upset human relations altogether. New ideas are arising, new feelings are on the way to flower. In thousands of years, when, seen from the distance, only the broad lines of the present age will still be visible, our wars and our revolutions will count for little, even supposing they are remembered at all; but the steam-engine, and the procession of inventions of every kind that accompanied it, will perhaps be spoken of as we speak of the bronze or of the chipped stone of prehistoric times: it will serve to define an age. If we could rid ourselves of all pride, if, to define our species, we kept strictly to what the historic and the prehistoric periods show us to be the constant characteristic of man and of intelligence, we should say not Homo sapiens, but Homo faber. In short, intelligence, considered in what seems to be its original feature, is the faculty of manufacturing artificial objects, especially tools to make tools, and of indefinitely varying the manufacture.
Now, does an unintelligent animal also possess tools or machines? Yes, certainly, but here the instrument forms a part of the body that uses it; and, corresponding to this instrument, there is an instinct that knows how to use it. True, it cannot be maintained that all instincts consist in a natural ability to use an inborn mechanism. Such a definition would not apply to the instincts which Romanes called "secondary"; and more than one "primary" instinct would not come under it. But this definition, like that which we have provisionally given of intelligence, determines at least the ideal limit toward which the very numerous forms of instinct are traveling. Indeed, it has often been pointed out that most instincts are only the continuance, or rather the consummation, of the work of organization itself. Where does the activity of instinct begin? and where does that of nature end? We cannot tell. In the metamorphoses of the larva into the nymph and into the perfect insect, metamorphoses that often require appropriate action and a kind of initiative on the part of the larva, there is no sharp line of demarcation between the instinct of the animal and the organizing work of living matter. We may say, as we will, either that instinct organizes the instruments it is about to use, or that the process of organization is continued in the instinct that has to use the organ. The most marvelous instincts of the insect do nothing but develop its special structure into movements: indeed, where social life divides the labor among different individuals, and thus allots them different instincts, a corresponding difference of structure is observed: the polymorphism of ants, bees, wasps and certain pseudoneuroptera is well known. Thus, if we consider only those typical cases in which the complete triumph of intelligence and of instinct is seen, we find this essential difference between them: instinct perfected is a faculty of using and even of constructing organized instruments; intelligence perfected is the faculty of making and using unorganized instruments.