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for some time as above, concluded with the following words:—
"If you cannot be content with the similar action of similar substances (living or non-living) under similar circumstances—if you cannot accept this as an ultimate fact, but consider it necessary to connect repetition of similar action with memory before you can rest in it and be thankful—be consistent, and introduce this memory which you find so necessary into the inorganic world also. Either say that a chrysalis becomes a butterfly because it is the thing that it is, and, being that kind of thing, must act in such and such a manner and in such a manner only, so that the act of one generation has no more to do with the act of the next than the fact of cream being churned into butter in a dairy one day has to do with other cream being churnable into butter in the following week —either say this, or else develop some mental condition—which I have no doubt you will be very well able to do if you feel the want of it—in which you can make out a case for saying that oxygen and hydrogen on being brought together, and cream on being churned, are in some way acquainted with, and mindful of, action taken by other cream and other oxygen and hydrogen on past occasions."
I felt inclined to reply that my friend need not twit me with being able to develop a mental organism if I felt the need of it, for his own ingenious attack on my position, and indeed every action of his life was but an example of this omnipresent principle.
When he was gone, however, I thought over what he had been saying. I endeavoured to see how far I could get on without volition and memory, and reasoned as follows :—A repetition of like antecedents will be certainly followed by a repetition of like consequents, whether the agents be men and women or chemical substances. "If there be two cowards perfectly similar in every respect, and if they be subjected in a perfectly similar way to two terrifying agents, which are themselves perfectly similar, there are few who will not expect a perfect similarity in the running away, even though ten thousand years intervene between the original combination and its repetition." 1 Here certainly there is no coming into play of memory, more than in the pan of cream on two successive churning days, yet the action is similar.
A clerk in an office has an hour in the middle of the day for dinner. About half-past twelve
1 Erewhon, chap, xxiii.
he begins to feel hungry; at one he takes down his hat and leaves the office. He does not yet know the neighbourhood, and on getting down into the street asks a policeman at the corner which is the best eating-house within easy distance. The policeman tells him of three houses, one of which is a little farther off than the other two, but is cheaper. Money being a greater object to him than time, the clerk decides on going to the cheaper house. He goes, is satisfied, and returns.
Next day he wants his dinner at the same hour, and—it will be said—remembering his satisfaction of yesterday, will go to the same place as before. But what has his memory to do with it? Suppose him to have entirely forgotten all the circumstances of the preceding day from the moment of his beginning to feel hungry onward, though in other respects sound in mind and body, and unchanged generally. At half-past twelve he would begin to be hungry; but his beginning to be hungry cannot be connected with his remembering having begun to be hungry yesterday. He would begin to be hungry just as much whether he remembered or no. At one o'clock he again takes down his hat and leaves the office, not because he remembers having done so yesterday, but because he wants his hat to go out with. Being again in the street, and again ignorant of the neighbourhood (for he remembers nothing of yesterday), he sees the same policeman at the corner of the street, and asks him the same question as before; the policeman gives him the same answer, and money being still an object to him, the cheapest eating-house is again selected; he goes there, finds the same menu, makes the same choice for the same reasons, eats, is satisfied, and returns.
What similarity of action can be greater than this, and at the same time more incontrovertible? But it has nothing to do with memory; on the contrary, it is just because the clerk has no memory that, his action of the second day so exactly resembles that of the first. As long as he has no power of recollecting, he will day after day repeat the same actions in exactly the same way, until some external circumstances, such as his being sent away, modify the situation. Till this or some other modification occurs, he will day after day go down into the street without knowing where to go; day after day he will see the same policeman at the corner of the same street, and (for we may as well suppose that the policeman has no memory too) he will ask and be answered, and ask and be answered, till he and the policeman die of old age. This similarity of action is plainlydue to that—whatever it is—which ensures that like persons or things when placed in like circumstances shall behave in like manner.
Allow the clerk ever such a little memory, and the similarity of action will disappear; for the fact of remembering what happened to him on the first day he went out in search of dinner will be a modification in him in regard to his then condition when he next goes out to get his dinner. He had no such memory on the first day, and he has upon the second. Some modification of action must ensue upon this modification of the actor, and this is immediately observable. He wants his dinner, indeed, goes down into the street, and sees the policeman as yesterday, but he does not ask the policeman; he remembers what the policeman told him and what he did, and therefore goes straight to the eating-house without wasting time: nor does he dine off the same dish two days running, for he remembers what he had yesterday and likes variety. If, then, similarity of action is rather hindered than promoted by memory, why introduce it into such