Mental Evolution in Animals
A Darwinian approach to the study of mind
This edition, like the others available for purchase, is a facsimile of the one originally published in 1885.Mental Evolution in Animals was conceived as the second part of a trilogy, the first part being Animal Intelligence and the third Mental
This edition, like the others available for purchase, is a facsimile of the one originally published in 1885.
Mental Evolution in Animals was conceived as the second part of a trilogy, the first part being Animal Intelligence and the third Mental Evolution in Man (both available as facsimile, too). The whole trilogy, then, constitutes a huge enquiry concerning the evolution and development of the faculties of mind in animal kingdom. More precisely, while Animal Intelligence is presented as a mere collection of facts, Mental Evolution in Animals is concerned in connecting those facts with the theory they seem to support, namely evolution by means of natural selection.
Romanes is in most aspects a Darwinian, first of all in that of seeing the passage from one faculty to another as a question of degree rather than kind. Yet he is much less Darwinian in considering that transition in terms of ascending scale, progression, that he thinks to be recapitulated in human ontogeny. This belief is even more astonishing if we consider that he must have known the Darwinian image of the evolution as a tree, or rather a coral, which expands not only vertically but also horizontally – which implies that there’s no such thing as a perfect progression.
There is no question, anyway, that the most important of the twenty chapters of the book are those dedicated to instinct. Here, Romanes proposes an extended version of Darwin’s enquiry on the subject, conducted both in the Origin of Species and the Posthumous Essay on Instinct (which constitutes the Appendix to this volume). Here, animal instincts are seen to have originated in two ways, one strictly selective, the other rather “lamarckian”, consisting in the inheritance of acquired habits.
To sum up, Mental Evolution in Animals is a very interesting book, for it contains a lot of noteworthy considerations on a variety of biological, psychological and philosophical issues, such as the mind-body problem (and the physiological correlate of mind), the relationship between intelligence and instincts, and even some important remarks concerning our epistemological access to the mind of animals.