Page 39

Chapter II. The Nature of Man


an animal than that of attributing consciousness to a plant. It is so natural to think of memory when a dog recognizes its master, whom perhaps it has not seen for some time; yet in reality the recognition is not due to memory at all, but to something quite different. The dog feels a certain attraction toward its master which proceeds from the personality of the latter. This gives the dog a sense of pleasure whenever its master is present, and every time this happens it is a cause of the repetition of the pleasure. But memory only exists in a being when he not only feels his present experiences, but retains those of the past. A person might admit this, and yet fall into the error of thinking the dog has memory. For it might be said that the dog pines when its master leaves it, and therefore it retains a remembrance of him. This too is an inaccurate opinion. Living with its master has made his presence a condition of well-being to the dog, and it feels his absence much in the same way in which it feels hunger. One who does not make these distinctions will not arrive at a clear course, when an animal has performed an action for a third or fourth time it may perform it in such a way that the outer process gives the impression that memory and the training associated with it are present. Nay, we may even extend our conception of memory or of recollection as far as some naturalists and their disciples, when they point out that the chicken begins to pick up grain as soon as it comes out of the shell; that it even knows the proper movements of head and body for gaining its end. It could not have learned this in the eggshell; hence it must have done so through the thousands and thousands of creatures from which it is descended (so says Hering, for example). We may call the phenomenon before us something resembling memory, but we shall never arrive at a real comprehension of human nature if we do not take into account that every distinctive element which shows itself in the human being as an inner process, as an actual perception of earlier experiences at a later date, is not merely the working of earlier conditions in later ones. In this book it is this perception of what is past that is called memory, not alone the reappearance (even though transformed) of what once existed, in a later form. Were we to use the word memory for the corresponding processes in the vegetable and animal kingdoms, we should be required to use a different word in speaking of man. In the description given here the important thing is not the particular word used, but rather that in attempting to understand human beings this distinction should be recognized. Just as little do the apparently very intelligent actions of