Chapter III. Sleep and Death
that his actual personal qualities were transmitted to him: such a statement is, on the contrary, opposed to sound logic. If personal gifts were inherited, they would be found at the beginning of a line of descent,7 and starting from that point be transmitted to the descendants. As, however, they stand at the end, it is evident that they are not transmitted. Now it is not to be denied that those who speak of a spiritual causality in life have contributed no less to bringing about confusion of thought. Far too much generalizing and vague discussion comes from this quarter. To say that a man's personality is a combination of inherited characteristics may certainly be compared with the assertion that the metal parts of a watch have fitted themselves together. It must also be admitted that, with regard to many assertions about a spiritual world, it is as though some one said that the metal parts of a watch cannot put themselves together in such a way as to enable the hands to move forward; some intelligence must therefore be present to effect this forward movement. In face of such an assertion, he certainly builds on a far better foundation who says: “Oh! I care nothing for your ‘mystical’ beings who move the hands forward. What I want to know is the mechanical construction by means of which the forward movement of the hands is achieved.” It is by no means a question of merely knowing that behind a mechanism, a watch for instance, there is an intelligence (the 7
The assertion that a man's personal talents, if governed purely by the law of “heredity,” must show themselves at the beginning of a line of descent, not at its end, might of course easily be misunderstood. It might be said, indeed, that they could not show themselves then, for they must first be developed. But this is no objection; for if we wish to prove that something has been inherited from an ancestor, we must show how that which was there formerly is repeated in a descendant. Now if it were demonstrated that something existed at the beginning of a genealogical line which reappeared in its further course, we might speak of heredity. We cannot do so when something appears at the end of it which was not there before. The reversal of the above proposition is only to show that the belief in heredity is impossible.