Embodied Selves: An Anthology of Psychological Texts, 1830-1890

By Jenny Taylor; Sally Shuttleworth | Go to book overview
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2. Concepts of Descent and Degeneration


Charles Darwin, The Descent of Man, and Selection in Relation to Sex ( 1871), 2nd edn. ( london: John Murray, 1883), 67- 8, 71, 75.

The Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection ( 1859) did not explicitly deal with the human species, though Darwin concluded by suggesting that it would 'throw light' on 'the origin of man and his history'. By the time he came to prepare The Descent of Man, many of the arguments about the interconnection of species had been accepted by naturalists, and here Darwin aimed 'to see how far the general conclusions arrived at in my former works were applicable to man'. Its aims, he stated in the Introduction, were to consider, first, 'whether man, like every other species, is descended from some other pre-existing form; secondly, the manner of his development; and thirdly, the value of the differences between the socalled races of man' (p. 2). These extracts are from. chapter 3, and the discussion of Spencer's ideas with which Darwin opens refers to the account of 'organic memory' in the 1870 edition of The Principles of Psychology. (See section II. 4 above.)

Although the first dawnings of intelligence, according to Mr. Herbert Spencer,* have been developed through the multiplication and co-ordination of reflex actions, and although many of the simpler instincts graduate into reflex actions, and can hardly be distinguished from them, as in the case of young animals sucking, yet the more complex instincts seem to have originated independently of intelligence. I am, however, very far from wishing to deny that instinctive actions may lose their fixed and untaught character, and be replaced

'The Principles of Psychology', 2nd edit. 1870, pp. 418-443.


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Embodied Selves: An Anthology of Psychological Texts, 1830-1890


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