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Hegeler Institute

ANIMAL AUTOMATISM AND CONSCIOUSNESS


Author(s): C. Lloyd Morgan
Source: The Monist, Vol. 7, No. 1 (October, 1896), pp. 1-18
Published by: Hegeler Institute
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/27897384
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Vol.

VII.

October,

THE

1896.

i.

No.

MONIST.

AND CONSCIOUSNESS.
ANIMALAUTOMATISM
ONE

of those

IN stimulate modern

forcible essays which have done so much to


thought, and to evoke that criticism which gives

to thought new life and interest, Professor Huxley discussed, with


all the fine subtlety tempered by strong common sense which char
acterises his writings, the hypothesis
that animals are automata.1
to which Professor Huxley was led is well known.
The hypothesis which in the time ofDescartes
could be at best but a
bold guess based on scanty and insufficient data, was interpreted in
The

conclusion

the light of modern physiology by an accredited master


branch of science, and was accepted, not only for animals

in that
but for

man himself, with the proviso that automatism is not to be regarded


as necessarily exclusive of consciousness
in any of its phases or in
This essay, at the time of its pub
any degree of its development.
came
in
for
its
share
of criticism. And it is not improb
full
lication,
able that the plain man who reads it to-day, desirous of reaching a
rational and straight-forward interpretation of the phenomena of an
imal life,will be inclined to suspect that in contending that animals
are conscious

automata

outrun his common

Professor

sense.

Such

allowed his subtlety to


Huxley
a one will not readily admit that

his favorite dog is an automatic machine, conscious or unconscious


;
nor will he allow to pass unchallenged
the statement that this view
of the matter

"is

1Collected
Essays,

that which

is implicitly, or explicitly, adopted

Vol.

V.,

I., Essay

by

p. 199.

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THE

most

"

persons.

even

And

MONIST.

when

that

is a con

too,

he,

no less than his four-footed companion, he will, I


to accept this conclusion as the last word of that

scious automaton

imagine, hesitate
science which Professor Huxley

himself tells him is trained and or

sense.

common

ganised

is assured

he

In order that we may be in a position to consider how far such


rejection of Professor Huxley's
carefully reasoned conclusion is jus
tifiable, itwill be necessary to quote two or three salient paragraphs
in which his view is set forthwith his usual lucidity of expression.
The following extracts, from the essay in question, will serve to de
fine Huxley's
''
When

of the actions

speak

stinct and not by reason,


are

yet their actions


rest in motion,
but

and

without

of

I believe

nies

of such changes."1
"
Much
ingenious
tion : How
ness,

and,

sumed

to do

engine

the moving

matter

acts ? But

in other words,

mechanical

as the rest of their actions,


called
Their

superfluous.

is the call
sensations,

is the best expres

indicative

volition,
volitions

of which

not

enter

so far as
into

of conscious

matter

in mo

as

it is as

is composed,

suggested,

they desire

the voluntary

to perform?are

they are

the chain

Their

the ques

upon

state

of nature with

the body

is here

is a

and are simply accompanied

the inquiry,
do

which

accompa
not a cause

changes,

times been bestowed

community

the acts which

which

its machinery.

of physical

that volition,

if, as

to the mechanism
to be as completely

and

influence upon

has at various

brutes?or,

consciousness

view

as the steam whistle

is without

is an emotion

to imagine

in voluntary

termed

to be related

of its working,

product

as such, has not the slightest

tion, can act upon

accepted

appear

that working

argument

is it possible

are

which

the

in surround

the function of which

that this generally

of brutes would

of a locomotive
any,

only sets

in relation with changes

of consciousness

as a collateral

if they have

volition,

not

do,

in short,

believe,

system)

in

by

they feel as we

We

organization.

(the nervous

guided

being

known."1

of modifying

any power

animals

is that, though

apparatus,

special

states

those

ideas.

simply

the work

lower

really mean

its movements

with

is provided

sion of the facts at present


'
consciousness
The
of their body

of the

one part of which

and coordinates

ing into existence


emotions,

we

what

the results of their physical

that they are machines,

ing bodies,

position
we

acts of

as purely

by the state of
becomes

concerned,

of causation

of their ac

tions at all.
"It
applies

is quite
to brutes

1p. 238.

true that, to the best of my


holds

equally

good

of men

judgment,

; and,

the argumentation

therefore,

which

that all states of con

2p. 240.

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ANIMAL

in them, are

in us, as

sciousness
brain

It seems

substance.

If these

are simply

dowed with

in the only

free will

is, and has been,

which

we

respects

series of causes

the great

cause

is the immediate

as in many

much

of a voluntary

the cause

is not

volition,

brain which

sense

intelligible

the symbol

We

automat

of that state of the

conscious

none

like?but

in unbroken

and effects which,

of the

the feeling we call


en

automata,

of that much-abused

to do as we

are able

are

the
that

conditions

take place

which

illustration,

act, but

of that act.

of the matter

that our mental

of the changes

of

changes

there is no proof

in the motion

that, to take an extreme

; and

by molecular

it follows

based,

as in brutes,

of change

in consciousness

the symbols

in the organism

ically

caused

that in men,

are well

positions

CONSCIOUSNESS.

immediately

to me

is the cause

any state of consciousness


organism.

AND

AUTOMATISM

term?inas

the less parts

continuity,

of
that

composes

sum of existence."1

and shall be?the

I take it that Professor Huxley's position, as set forth in the es


are quoted, may be summed up in
which these passages
from
say
the following propositions :
or molecular

1. Every movement
regarded as a physical

occurrence,

change, in the animal body,


has a physical antecedent or

cause.

2. Certain movements
are

elsewhere,

if under

4.

given

The

term

in the brain or

changes,

of consciousness.

are collateral

products which,
these

conditions

serve merely

changes,

states

by

accompanied

states of consciousness

3. Such
even

or molecular

they always accompany


to signify their presence.
is applicable

"automaton"

to any

piece

of mech

anism, no matter how complex, all the workings of which


in terms of physical causation.
given time are explicable
5. An animal
occurrences

sical

is such a piece
in which

are

of mechanism

accompanied

at any

some of the phy

by

consciousness

above

denned.

as

an

adjunct.
6.

Therefore

animals

are

automata,

as

first of these propositions may claim, I take it, our unhes


itating assent. That every physical occurrence has a physical cause
or antecedent, is the fundamental assumption upon which physical
science carries on its investigations.
So, too, with regard to the
The

second proposition, that certain molecular


changes in the brain or
This expresses, in
elsewhere are accompanied
by consciousness.
!pp.

243-244.

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THE

MONIST.

general terms, the conclusion which physiological psychology tends


more and more confidently to endorse.
But the third proposition,
that consciousness
is a collateral product of brain action, introduces
a bit of theory which appears to me neither satisfactory nor neces
I, for one, find as much difficulty in imagining or conceiv
ing how matter inmotion can produce consciousness, which, "as
such, has not the slightest community of nature with matter inmo
sary.

tion," as in conceiving how "volition, which is a state of conscious


ness, can act upon the moving matter of which the body is com
The difficulty in each case appears to me to be precisely
posed."
itwould seem that each one of us has at least
the same. Moreover,
as good reason for believing that one state of consciousness
directly
causation, as that these
suggests another in a chain of psychical
conscious
currences

states are merely collateral products which symbolise oc


in a chain of physical causation.
Furthermore, the intro

of this piece of theory is unnecessary so far as the present


The
is concerned.
discussion
facts, or what we believe to be the
are
as
well
facts,
just
expressed by saying that, from one point of
duction

certain

view,
and

that,

from

have

physical

these

occurrences

ley's main
redundant

physical
another

occurrences
point

concomitants
are

contention

links

have

of view,

conscious

certain

concomitants,

conscious

occurrences

; and that, from either point


in a causation

chain.

itwas.

exactly where

This

It merely

leaves

of view,
Hux

strikes out a

hypothesis.
come now to the fourth proposition.
Professor Huxley
terms
"automaton"
define
the
and
not, indeed, anywhere

We
does

"automatism"
tomaton"

; but the definition above given, that the term "au


to any piece of mechanism
all the workings

is applicable
at any given

time are explicable


in terms of physical caus
from
what is explicitly or im
I
be
inferred
think,
ation, may,
fairly
plicitly contained in the essay. And this is no doubt in accord with

of which

a definition

such

an

where

automaton

as

that given
is described

in the Encyclopaedia
as

"

self-moving

Britannica,

machine,

or one

the principle of motion is contained within the mechanism


It is true that we are told that "the word is generally ap
to contrivances which simulate for a time the motions of ani

inwhich
itself."
plied

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ANIMAL

AUTOMATISM

AND

CONSCIOUSNESS.

ifwe apply it to any of the motions of animal life,


there would appear to be no logical grounds for rejecting its appli
And ifwe accept these definitions as
cation to all these motions.

mal

life."

But

position, as summarised in propositions 5 and


they stand, Huxley's
in
follow
6,
logical sequence, and we must hold with him that in the
life of animals

and man

automatism

We

reigns supreme.
first, whether the definition, so

may fairly ask, however,


applied, is in accordance with general usage ; secondly, whether it
is helpful in the study of animal life ; and, thirdly, whether it pre
serves the spirit of the teaching of that acute thinker, Ren? Des
cartes, whose

thought Professor

Huxley

interpreted

in terms of

science.

modern

It certainly does not appear to be in accordance with common


I receive a telegram from a friend,who has recently
usage. When
returned to England,
begging me to come and see him, and delib
erate whether> in view of certain engagements intowhich I have en
tered, I can accede to his request, itwould seem to be scarcely in
accordance with established usage to say that I fill in the reply-tel
egram automatically. Nor would most persons, I imagine, describe
my action as instinctive, as they should do ifHuxley's view be ac
cepted in its entirety, and if, "when we speak of the actions of the
lower animals being guided by instinct, . . . what we really mean
is that, though they feel as we do, yet their actions are the results
For the words which Professor
of their physical organisation."

inserts after instinct?"are


guided by instinct and not by
Huxley
reason "?may be omitted if reason, too, like volition, be no less
than reflex action, "one of the results of our physical organisation."
again, is it in accordance with established usage to call a be
ing which profits by experience and which is susceptible of progres

Nor,
sive

education

an

automaton.

the second question, as to the first, I am disposed to give a


terms are of service just in so far as
Distinctive
negative answer.
they help us to draw the distinctions which are necessary for clear
To

If we universalise the term autom


ness of thought and expression.
atism so as to comprise the whole active life of man and animals,
The term as applied to animal life
it loses all its distinctive value.

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THE

MONIST.

just in so far as it serves to distinguish actions which are


automatic from others which are not automatic. On these grounds,
is useful

I am prepared to advocate a more restricted definition, according


to which an automatic action is one that we have reason to suppose
is not performed under the immediate guidance of consciousness,
this phrase being understood to be a shortened expression for "with
the intervention of certain controlling physical occurrences which
are
and

states

by

accompanied
of

sequence

these

of consciousness."

as

occur

they

we

occurrences,

physical

foundly ignorant ; but of the nature


consciousness

Of
are

we

at present

at any

do,

nature
pro

of the states of

and sequence

in ourselves,

exact

the

know

rate,

And we may fairly infer the existence of somewhat


something.
similar states from the observable behavior of animals.
But does Professor Huxley's
position preserve the spirit of the
? I venture to think not. Huxley himself,
teaching of Descartes
in an

earlier

on

essay?that

thus briefly indicates

''
According

to Descartes

imals are performed


as

sciousness

This

rational

by

in man

(and

as

mechanism,

distinction

of the

'chosepensante,'

going on

ern physiologists
is lodged
seat and

to be

in the cortical
instrument

Now what

in the pineal
of the animal

or influenced

so exalted

they adopt

a function

Descartes's

part of the brain?at

he

looks

of the

gland

as

and

soul,'

to the body.
in a sort of cen

of the body.

suppose

least this is commonly

con

'rational

to the little pineal

principle,

and an

upon

it became

spirits,

the operations

aware
Mod

gland, but,
that the soul

regarded

as the

of consciousness."1

is the essential

feature of Descartes's

conception of
Is it not that that which con

?
the part played by consciousness
from
the
automatic
trols, stands apart
control is exercised
ness

and

is superadded

opinion)

lodged

intermediation

in the body,

do not ascribe

sort of way,

in Descartes's

only

soul he conceived

to man

are common

the functions which


a mere

tral office ; and here, by the


of what was

all

the body

the peculiar

in man

in a vague

of the r?le of con

conception

sciousness

which

the Cartesian

on Method"?

Discourse

"Descartes's

in the pineal

1Collected
Essays,

mechanism

? It is true that his enthronement


body was

Vol.

I., Essay

about

as wide

IV., pp.

over which

its

of conscious

of the mark as was his

188-189.

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ANIMAL

AND

AUTOMATISM

CONSCIOUSNESS.

conception of the nerves as conduit pipes through which the ani


mal spirits, pumped from the heart to the brain, are emptied into
the muscles.
But if in the latter case his principles were sound,
facts were

conjectural, so, too, in the former case, his


essence though his pineal gland took no
in
conception
share in its elaboration.
And one may be permitted to wonder in
though his

was valid

what

"unwearied

manner,

dissector

and

as

observer"

he was,

Des

cartes regarded the pineal body in the animals he dissected and ob


it an empty throne awaiting its royal occupant ? This,
served. Was
The essential feature of his teaching, as I
however, by the way.
understand

it, is that when,

dence

of guidance
to consciousness,

as in the actions of man, we have evi

and control, in view

of certain

data

afforded

stands

that which guides and controls


apart
re
concerned
in merely automatic
from the bodily mechanism
himself believed that the soul, enthroned in the
sponse. Descartes
pineal
lieved

gland, performed this function.


that the soul used the cerebral

Later

thinkers have

cortex as

be

the instrument

Professor Huxley, wield


through which its control was exercised.
its throne, and
ing the sword of logic, forces the soul to abdicate
by his extended hypothesis of automatism does away altogether
with the conception of guidance and control. But if we dethrone
the soul, and deny its divine right to rule our actions, that is no
reason why we

leave the body politic without any form of


truer inference is that the cerebral cortex is the

should
The

government.
organ of control not as the instrument of the soul, (which may or
are con
may not exist,1 so far as the matters we are discussing

own right. For the cortex itself stands apart


cerned,) but in its
from the lower brain-centres which are concerned in automatism in
the more

restricted sense.2 The

cortex is not the instrument of that

which controls, but is, from the physical point of view, that which
The molecular changes therein, evoked by bodily condi
controls.
tions, are such as to augment, or inhibit (and by augmenting here
!This

I conceive

to be

the rigidly agnostic

position.

as we have more
than once
insisted, seem to
hemispheres,
Professor M. Foster, Text-book
stand apart from the rest of the brain."
of Physi
Part III., p. 999.
ology, 5th Edition,
2"The

cerebral

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THE

MONIST.

and inhibiting there to modify1) the action of the lower automatic


centres; and these molecular
changes are accompanied
by con
The
the
to
sciousness.
future may be able
indicate
physiology of
the physical conditions under which control is effected ; but as mat
ters now stand, we know far more about the accompaniments
in
than we do about the concomitant molecular

consciousness

changes.
In describing
therefore what we believe to occur, we may say, if
we desire to be somewhat pedantically
accurate, that the actions
which we term voluntary are the effects of those molecular
changes
are accompanied
; or we may
by consciousness
that they are the results
say in brief and to avoid circumlocution,
of conscious guidance and control.
Thus we preserve the essence
in the cortex which

teaching but interpret it in terms of modern

of Descartes's

scientific

thought.
On all grounds, then, a more restricted definition of the term
"automaton"
than that which Professor Huxley
in his
adopted
on the ground of general usage, on
the ground of scientific utility, and on the ground of historical pre
And our consideration of Descartes's
cedent.
teaching helps us to
later Essay2

reach

seems

further

stricted sense.
out

advisable;

definition

Automatic

the immediate

of

animal

action

and effective

automatism,

is that which
intervention

in

re

the more

is performed with
of those molecular

changes in the cerebral cortex which are accompanied


by conscious
ness (such intervention being rendered possible by association);
action is that which is performed without
or, in brief, automatic
as an adjunct there
guidance and control. Consciousness
no
in
the
be
but
direction
it
share
of
active response.
takes
;
may
returns to the subject of animal automatism
Professor Huxley
conscious

in a subsequent

essay?that

on The Connection of theBiological

Sei

1Descartes

when he likened the rational soul to the


used similar expressions
to increase, or
amidst
the automatic
figures of a grotto "when he wishes
engineer
to slacken, or in some way to alter their movements."
Collected
by Huxley,
Quoted
Vol. I., Essay
IV., p. 183.
Essays,
2 In his

earlier essay on Descartes's


Discourse
he seems to accept
the more re
See his remarks on the effects of education
usage.
by which acts become
Loc. cit., p. 188.
mechanical.
See also the sentences at the top of p. 187.
stricted

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ANIMAL

AND

AUTOMATISM

ences with Medicine1

indicates

(1881)?and
views which more

Descartes's

pound
which

is the distinctive

he was

misled

hydraulic

apparatus,

tral source

conception

with

the machines

between

of power,

of that power.

The

of

to carry out,

he was

which

familiar,

the first to pro

with
in all

such

mechanism,,

ancient

the living machine.

and

the parts of the machine


conceived

as clocks

are merely

physiology,
a parallel

its details,

and pieces

passive

of the living body

of

there is a cen

In all such machines

and

school

was

as a physical

as contrasted

temptation

Cartesian

of
had

conceptions

that Descartes

the living body

feature of modern,

by the natural

certain modifications

He

though, as I think, there is no doubt

the fundamental

recent biological
says :2

seemingly rendered necessary.


"But

CONSCIOUSNESS.

distributors

as a machine

of

that kind."

then leads up to the modern conception of


Professor Huxley
as
animal
the
constituted by a multitude of cell-units, together
body
with certain of their products ; and quotes from Bichat the follow
ing intermediate
"All
which

animals,"

performs

the whole.

and

are

They

so many
But

of different

assemblages

concurs,

after its fashion,

of these special machines

of
of
con

which

is itself compounded

in truth constitute

which

natures,

each

organs,

in the preservation

in the general machine

machines

special

each

tissues of very different

many

"are

says Bichat,
its function

the individual.

stitutes

conception

of

the elements

of

these organs."3

In view of this conception of the body as a complex structure


composed of special organs and tissues, supplemented by the more
recent conception of the tissues themselves as constituted of cellu
lar units,

ley thus indicates


"The
actions
says,

proposition
are

of which

''
unquestionably

synthesis

of

an organic

by the known

largely

true.

is that which

metamorphosis
sense

and

in which

and

co-ordinates

true, that

elements

is a machine,

regulates

these

each

school

physiological

the

is," he

the living body

metabolism

the Cartesian

Hux

and motion,

[the cell-units],
functional

and

required

laws of matter

it is also

But

physiological

in the precise

is a

of which
: and

that

understood
units

into

whole."4

^Collected Essays,
zLoc.

of restatement,

that the body of a living man

of Descartes
explicable

of structural

the only machinery,

in need

stand

the nature of the modification

innumerable

[is] susceptible

mechanism,

views

Descartes's

cit., p.

367.

Vol.

III.,

pp.

350 et. seq.

ALoc. cit., pp.

2Loc. cit., pp.

362-363.

368-369.

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10

THE

MONIST.

to show that, with regard to the action


then proceeds
Huxley
of the living protoplasm of the cell unit, physiologists fall into two
schools.
First, those "who look with as little favor as Bichat did
upon any attempt to apply the principles and the methods of phys
ics and chemistry to the investigation of the vital processes
of
"
and
and
those
who
;
growth, metabolism,
contractility
secondly,
to molecular
"look
physics to achieve the analysis of living proto
And he himself accepts
plasm itself into a molecular mechanism."
the latter alternative.
matter," he says, "differs from
"Living
other matter in degree and not in kind ; the microcosm
repeats the
macrocosm

; and one chain of causation

connects

the nebulous

inal of suns and planetary systems with the protoplasmic


tion of life and organisation."1

orig
founda

far good.
Professor Huxley, however, does not proceed,
with his accustomed
thoroughness, to exhibit the connexion of this
of
cellular automatism with the modified Cartesian view,
conception
So

to which, he says, the only machinery is that which co


and regulates these physiological
units into an organic

according
ordinates
whole.

I may perhaps

stricted

automatism

under

inwhich

gans

the conditions

of these minute

Groups
bined.

I am

here

to do so in terms of that re
advocating.

cell may be regarded as a minute machine specially fitted


certain chemical products or to undergo certain physical

Every
to produce
changes

which

be permitted

The

which

obtain

cellular machines

in the living body.


constitute tissues and or

their joint and related activities are effectively com


and its pro
organ thus forms a composite machine;

or its physical
changes are the net result of the mechanical
in the cell units of which it is constituted.
transactions
And the

ducts

is an automatic

machine
which

occurs

one in the sense that every physical


or causes.
therein has physical antecedents

change
But it

also presents this peculiarity ; that the structure of the machine


is
modified by its functional activity; that it is to some extent a plastic
machine which is moulded
to its work by the performance of that
work.

So

that ifwe speak of it as a piece of automatic mechanism

1Loc. cit., pp.

370-371.

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ANIMAL

we must

remember

AUTOMATISM

AND

CONSCIOUSNESS.

II

that its automatism

is, within certain limits,


; that there is in addition to auto

capable of adaptive modification


matic performance
and automatic
adjustment
something more,
it is well to apply
namely adaptation to new conditions. Whether
"
to such adaptation
the term "automatic
is a matter that is open
to discussion.
The conception of automatism carries with it, for
an idea of relative

fixity and invariability with which the idea


is incongruous ; and I should myself
of plasticity and adaptation
to
to environing conditions is
that
say
prefer
organic adaptation

me,

something beyond and superadded to automatism.


We must in any case distinguish between the multifarious
lecular
and

processes

the

which

processes

co-ordinating

and which

occur

in muscular

and glandular

occur

which

in nervous

mo

tissues
centres,

serve

to give unity to the working of the compound


It is here that we find that ma
mechanism
of the body at large.
chinery, "in the precise sense inwhich the Cartesian school under
stood mechanism,"
which regulates the activities of the physiolo
and
them into an organic whole. But there
units
co-ordinates
gical
are two distinct types of the regulative process involved in this co
ordination

; the one characterised

by relative fixity and invariabil


ity ; the other characterised
by relative plasticity and adaptation.
It is to the former that the term animal automatism is, I conceive,

properly applicable.
in reflex action and
vention of conscious

It comprises that co-ordination which is seen


in instinctive response.
It involves no inter
In so far as it is sub
guidance and control.

it ceases to be automatic in character. Strongly


ject to modification
contrasted with this type of regulative co-ordination
is that which
as
a
to
the
whole.
It
gives plasticity
organism
comprises that co
ordination which

is seen in voluntary action and renders acquisition


a more or less modifying influence on instinc

It exercises

possible.
tive responses

and thus lifts them above

the level of automatism.

It involves the direct intervention of those molecular


cesses which have
choice,
upon

for their conscious

concomitants

on previous
individual experience
the association of impressions and ideas.

On

based

this view an

intelligent (and still more

cortical
what we

pro
term

and dependent
rational)

automa

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12

THE

MONIST.

Intelligence takes in hand the au


tomatism presented through heredity, modifies it, and, in the early
days of life drills the activities and reorganises them into habits.
ton is a contradiction

in terms.

a drill-sergeant takes in hand a number of raw recruits


When
he has to keep a vigilant eye on all their actions, checking useless,
or mistaken
misguided,
activity in this direction, eliciting more
more
and
prompt
vigorous response to his commands in that direc
tion ; making his men act not as isolated units but as constituent
members
of a corporate body, and aiming throughout at that co
their future efficiency will depend ; so
ordinated action on which
that, when they take their places in the ranks, each may be ready
to perform his own part, in due subordination to the combined ac
tion of the whole, without faltering and without hesitation.
The
men are duly organised into squads,
on ; and thus we have a disciplined

companies,
army with

battalions,

and so

its brigades, divi


its
with
sions,
army corps ;
artillery, engineers, cavalry, and
infantry ; with its staff divided into intelligence, commissariat, and
medical departments, each with distinctive responsibilities and un
and

der its own especial commanding officers ; the whole capable of the
most varied and yet most orderly evolutions at the will of the com
mander-in-chief.

It is the function of consciousness,


represented in the flesh by
the cerebral cortex, to drill and organise the active forces of the
animal body in a somewhat analogous manner.
But when it enters
finds that a considerable amount of
upon its duties consciousness
the drilling has already been done for it. There is no need to teach
the organic mechanism
how certain activities are to be performed.
are already carried out automatically.
The intelligence de
partment, with its special senses and so forth, is already organised
so far as the supply of information is concerned. The commissariat

They

digestive organs, heart, lungs, and the rest, is in pretty


good working order and eagerly on the look-out for supplies. Many
actions of the reflex kind and of the
complex activities, adaptive

department,

type termed instinctive, are at once performed without the guid


ance of consciousness
under appropriate conditions. Consciousness
on
looks
and
makes a memorandum
of what is going for
merely

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ANIMAL

AND

AUTOMATISM

CONSCIOUSNESS.

13

number and the complexity of those instinctive activi


ties that consciousness
thus finds ready to its hand varies in the
The

ward.

different grades of animal life ; being at a maximum


in such forms
as insects and spiders ; being more marked
in birds than inmam
mals

; and being inconspicuous


are, however, also many more

or difficult to trace in man.

There

or less isolated activities, with very


little initial adaptive value, which resemble raw recruits. Such are
the comparatively aimless and random limb-movements of the hu

man

infant, as he lies helpless on his mother's lap. Consciousness


has to lick these into shape ; to combine and organise their vague
efforts in directions that are useful for the purposes of animal life,
to the conditions under which the forces of that life
adapted
are employed ; gradually to bring the effective work done by the
several companies, represented by groups of muscles,
into due re

and

lation to each other ; and to assume the supreme command of all


the forces and thus to carry on the battle of life at the best advan
tage.

an analogy as this must not be pressed too far. It is ad


duced merely for the purposes of illustration. The drill-sergeant,
Such

for example, is dealing with intelligent beings


of directing and controlling their own actions.
as a drill-sergeant
or

instinctive

ties,

is dealing with
random

as

the

automatic
case

may

themselves
But

capable
consciousness

movements
be,

themselves

or activi
incapa

ble of self-guidance.
What
the analogy here serves to illustrate is
this, that neither the drill-sergeant, on the one hand, nor conscious
the activities which
ness, on the other hand, can directly produce
are dealt with.
be done
check
duced

The

activities must be given. The utmost that can


some to increased energy of action and to

is to stimulate

or repress others. The activities cannot be created or pro


: they can only be educed or reduced.
Secondly, just as the

drill-sergeant must vigilantly watch his men, since he is dependent


on such observation for information as to the correct performance
of their actions ; so, too, is consciousness
entirely dependent on the
through the incoming channels or afferent
nerves for the data upon which its guidance, through the exercise
of its power of augmentation, and inhibition, is based.
Thirdly,
information

received

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THE

MONIST.

just as the superior officer has to bring into due relation the evolu
tions which are carried out under the control of his subordinates, so
does consciousness

correlate

the data received

of different nerves and co-ordinate

through many groups


a number of varied activities into

a more or less definite course of behavior.

It is true that the anal

ogy here again, to some extent, fails us, since the drill-sergeant and
his superior officer are separate individuals, while consciousness
is
continuous and is drill-sergeant and superior officer rolled into one.
remains unbroken, we
But, though this continuity of consciousness
have

abundant

evidence,

in

the

course

of

our

own

experience,

of

the fact that, during the gradual establishment of the supreme con
scious control of the bodily activities, the regulation of details of ac
is, step by step, relegated to subconscious
guidance,
attention
in
but
little
touch
with, requires
which, though constantly
from, the supreme centres of voluntary control. The horseman, the
cyclist, the pianist, knows well that, when once skill has been at
tive response

tained, such further guidance as is required under the special con


ditions of any particular performance of the act of skill may be safely
left to subconsciousness,
scarcely troubling the attention at all.
Habit has, in large degree, rendered these actions part of the ac
But consciousness,
like a wise superior officer,
quired automatism.
still keeps vigilant watch.
So long as the performance is satisfac
tory and accurate the superior officer sees as if he saw not ; but
as superior officer, steps
when anything goes wrong, consciousness,
inmore

or less smartly and decisively.


Few are likely to question the importance

in animal

life of the

acquisition of habits, including, as we must, under this term, nearly


all the varied forms of animal skill. For even when the skill is
founded upon a congenital
haps, in some instinctive

and instinctive basis,


activities

it is (except, per
of insects and other inverte

to finer and more delicate issues in


brates) improved and guided
course
of individual experience.
So that we may regard the
the
as twofold ; first, it is concerned
in the
function of consciousness
of habits ; and, secondly, it is concerned in the utili
sation of all the active powers, including the habits so established,
in meeting the varied requirements of daily life.

establishment

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ANIMAL

AND

AUTOMATISM

CONSCIOUSNESS.

15

then, we may proceed to ask, is the guidance of con


of
effected ? Upon what principles are the acquisition
skill and the utilisation of skill to be explained ?

How,
sciousness

can be no question that, from the psychological


point of
of impressions and ideas is of fundamental im

There
view,

the association

portance.
sociation
question

may be the position assigned to so-called "as


in human psychology,
there can be no
by contiguity"
as to its essential importance in the more primitive psy
Whatever

chology of such animals as young birds and young mammals. When


chicks learn rapidly to distinguish between the caterpillars of the
cinnabar moth and those of the cabbage moth, so that they gobble
up the one without hesitation and avoid the other without fail, they
give us the plainest intimation which can be conveyed by objective
has been formed in either case between
signs that an association
and taste. Professor Preyer notes that his chicks rap
to
the sound of tapping with the presence of
learnt
associate
idly
food. I have elsewhere described how one of my chicks which had
but recently learnt to drink standing in its tin, subsequently stopped
as it ran through the water in such a way as to lead one to infer that
appearance

the wet

feet had become

associated

with

the satisfaction

of thirst.

seemed to associate water with the sight of a


pheasants
on
so thoroughly
which
I gave them drops.
toothpick
Ducklings
associated water with the sight of their tin that they tried to drink
from it and wash in it, though itwas empty, nor did they desist for

Young

some minutes. A young moor-hen, forwhose benefit we had dug up


worms with a spade, and which, standing by, jumped on the just
turned sod and seized every wriggling speck which caught his keen
eye,

would

soon

run

from

some

distance

to me

so

soon

as

I took

hold of the spade.


There is no need to multiply instances of this
kind. The study of these young birds is an impressive lesson in as
sociation psychology, and one daily grows more convinced of the
in the acquisition of experience of this
homely elementary but essentially practical kind.
But it may be said that though association
is unquestiona
importance

of association

bly important, yet its efficiency in the guidance of action depends


that, in a chick which has
upon something deeper still. Granted

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16

THE

MONIST.

is formed
first seen and then tasted a nasty morsal, an association
between sight and taste, so that on a subsequent occasion its pecu
is the con
What
liar appearance
suggests its peculiar nastiness.
of a cinnabar caterpillar and the
the nastiness
nexion between
to
eat
the niceness of a
it, or between
checking of the tendency
cabbage moth caterpillar and the added energy with which it is
seized ? Why do taste-stimuli of one kind have the one effect and
taste-stimuli of a different kind have just the opposite effect ?What
are the physiological
concomitants of the augmentation of response
in the one case and of the inhibition of response in the other ease?
that there is but one honest answer

to these questions.
and much beside must be left for the physi
of the future to explain.
This much may be said : Certain

I conceive
We

do not know. This

ology
stimuli

call

forth cortical

the result of which is the


disturbances,
inhibition of activities leading to the repetition of these stimuli;
the result of which is
certain others call forth cortical disturbances
the augmentation

The
able

lead to their repetition.


of the latter we call pleasur
in consciousness of the former we call un

of the activities which


in consciousness

accompaniments
; the accompaniments
distasteful,

pleasant,
ment

of

the

facts

or painful.

as we

at present

That

to be a plain

appears

understand

state

them.

there can be no question as to the strongly-marked hered


of response when the cortical
itary element in such augmentation
have pleasurable
concomitants
disturbances
and the inhibition of
Now

response

when

the

cortical

disturbances

have

unpleasant

concom

is, in fact, grounded on the innate powers or faculties


which the organism derives from its parents or more distant ances
tors. But if the cortical augmentation and inhibition form the basis
itants.

This

all acquisition
of the distinction between
upon which

of that between

automatic

and all control are based, what becomes


instinctive and acquired activities? What
and controlled behavior?
Do we not

come back, after all, to the universal


fessor Huxley?

automatism

advocated

by Pro

Let us look again at the facts. A chick sees for the first time
in its life a cinnabar caterpillar, instinctively pecks at it under the
influence of the visual stimulus ; seizes it, and instinctively shrinks

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ANIMAL

AUTOMATISM

AND

CONSCIOUSNESS.

under the influence of the taste stimulus.

17

So farwe have

instinct

Presently we throw to it another similar caterpil


lar. Instinct and automatism alone would lead to a repetition of the
seizing, tasting, shrinking. The
previous series of events?seeing,
and automatism.

oftener the experiment was performed themore smoothly would the


the same se
organic mechanism work, the more definitely would
Is this
quence be repeated?seeing,
seizing, tasting, shrinking.
what we actually observe ? Not at all. On the second occasion the
chick acts differently as the result of the previous
experience.
Though he sees, he does not seize, but shrinks without seizing.
that there is a revival

in memory of the nasty taste.


And in this we seem justified, since we may observe that sometimes
the chick, on such occasions, wipes its bill on the ground as he does

We

believe

when he experiences an unpleasant


the larva. The chick, then, does
instinct and

like an automaton.

taste, though he has not touched


not continue to act merely from
His behavior is modified in the

What,
then, has taken place in and
light of previous experience.
which
this
born
of
modification,
through
experience, is introduced ?
In answering this question we seem to put our finger upon that in
the distinction now regarded as of so much biolog
between congenital and acquired activities?
ical significance?that

virtue of which

has a valid existence.


Association

answer may be given in two words?


and the Suggestion that arises therefrom. The chick's
The

first experience of the cinnabar caterpillar leads to an association


between the appearance
of the larva and its taste ; or, from the
of
the sev
view, a direct connexion between
physiological
point
On the second occasion the taste is sug
the
of
the
cinnabar larva; or, physiologically,
the
gested by
sight
disturbance associated with taste is directly called forth by the dis
It is through association and sug
turbance associated with sight.
eral cortical disturbances.

gestion
behavior

that an organism is able to profit by experience


ceases to be merely instinctive and automatic.

and that its


And

such

seem to be a purely individual matter?founded,


an
no doubt, on
innate basis, linking activities of the congenital
none
but
the
less wholly dependent upon the immediate touch
type,
association

would

of individual experience.

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i8

the

monist.

In watching, then, the behavior of young birds or other ani


mals, we observe a development which we interpret as the result of
For the chick, to which a handful
conscious choice and selection.
caterpillars is thrown, chooses out the nice ones and leaves
The selection is dependent upon an in
the nasty ones untouched.
nate power of association which needs the quickening touch of indi
vidual experience to give it activity and definition, without which it
of mixed

lies dormant as a mere potentiality.


On this conscious
selection
and choice depends throughout its entire range this development of
those habits which are acquired as opposed to those which are con
the whole of mental as contrasted with
genital ; and on it depends
merely biological evolution. On it, too, depends the distinction be
tween animal automatism,
in the restricted sense here advocated,
and those higher powers which, though founded thereon, constitute
a new field of evolutionary progress.
C.

Lloyd

Morgan.

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