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La Naissance de l'Intelligence

Nature volume 81, pages 45 (01 July 1909) | Download Citation



THIS book is the latest addition to the well-known series of volumes entitled the “Bibliothèque de Philosophic scientifique,” and, in both matter and style, easily reaches the high standard of excellence set by its predecessors. The author restricts his attention to the psychology of the lower organisms, and has succeeded in giving an extremely interesting account of a part of modern comparative psychology hitherto rendered attractive only at the expense of truth. An implacable foe to the “anthropomorphism” of the last generation of comparative psychologists, Dr. Bohn devotes a large part of the earlier chapters of his book to a full statement and vigorous defence of Loeb's theory of tropisms, relieving it of several serious misconceptions on the part of the critics by distinguishing it from and relating it to the theories of “differential sensibility” and “associative memory,” respectively, which were adumbrated by Loeb himself, and are equally necessary to the explanation of many forms of behaviour of lower organisms. From this general standpoint he finds himself in a position to criticise, on the one hand, the modern mechanistic school of the Germans (Beer, Bethe, Uexküll, &c.), who deny sensations to animals only to be forced, later on in the argument, to attribute intellect to them, and, on the other hand, Jennings and his American supporters, whose theory of “trial and error” is accused (somewhat unjustly, we think) of an anthropomorphic taint. Other interesting points in the book are discussions on the vital rhythms of marine animals, on the criteria of psychism (where the author rejects Yerkes's various criteria—discrimination, docility, initiative—in favour of that suggested by Loeb, viz. associative memory), on the laws of associative phenomena, and on instinct, a term which the author scornfully expels from comparative psychology as being “metaphysical” and useless. Such a method of getting rid of difficulties should not be encouraged.

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