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Chapter Two: Mother and Child

There is a widespread belief of which Aristotle is probably the original source that the human infant is an animal organism which becomes rational and acquires a human personality in the process of growing up. In Aristotle's terminology the baby is potentially but not actually rational. It realizes this potentiality through a process of habit-formation; and in this process a ‘character’ is formed. ‘Character’ is an orderly organization of the original animal impulses so that they no longer function independently as motives of behaviour but as elements in a system. Thus the mature human being acts for the satisfaction of his character of himself as a whole in a whole life and this satisfaction we call ‘happiness’. The child like the animal acts for the satisfaction of isolated impulses as they arise and this satisfaction is ‘pleasure’. We might then illustrate the characteristic difference between rational and non-rational behaviour by saying that when an animal is hungry it goes in search of food; but when a man is hungry he looks at his watch to see how long it will be before his next meal.

The Aristotelian theory interests us only because of the influence it has had and still has upon our customary ways of thinking. If the notion that children are little animals who acquire the characteristics of rational humanity through education whose personalities are ‘formed’ by the pressures brought to bear upon them as they grow up—if this notion seems to us simple common sense and matter of everyday observation—it is because we share the traditional outlook and attitude of a culture which has been moulded by Greek and in particular by Aristotelian ideas. So much of common sense is the relic of past philosophies!

Whatever its origin this view is radically false; and our first task is to uncover the error on which it rests and to replace it by a more adequate view. In his important contribution to psychotherapeutic theory The Origin of Love and Hate the late Dr. Ian Suttie asserted roundly that the human infant is less like an animal than the human adult.1 This goes too far perhaps in the opposite direction but it is a valuable corrective to the traditional view. The root of the error is the attempt to understand the field of the personal on a biological analogy and so through organic categories. The Greek mode of thought was naturally biological or zoomorphic. The Greek tradition has been strongly reinforced by the organic philosophies of the nineteenth century and the consequent development of evolutionary biology. This in turn led to the attempt to create evolutionary sciences in the human field particularly in its social aspect. The general result of these convergent cultural activities—the Romantic movement the organic philosophies idealist or realist and evolutionary science—was that contemporary thought about human behaviour individual and social became saturated with biological metaphors and moulded itself to the requirements of an organic analogy. It became the common idiom to talk of ourselves as organisms and of our societies as organic structures; to refer to the history of society as an evolutionary process and to account for all human action as an adaptation to environment.

It was assumed and still is assumed in many quarters that this way of conceiving human life is scientific and empirical and therefore the truth about us. It is in fact not empirical; it is a priori and analogical. Consequently it is not in the strict sense even scientific. For this concept and the categories of understanding which go with it were not discovered by a patient unbiased examination of the facts of human activity. They were discovered at best through an empirical and scientific study of the facts of plant and animal life. They were applied by analogy to the human field on the a priori assumption that human life must exhibit the same structure.

The practical consequences are in the end disastrous; but they do reveal the erroneous character of the assumption. To affirm the organic conception in the personal field is implicitly to deny the possibility of action; yet the meaning of the conception lies in its reference to action. We can only act upon the organic conception by transforming it into a determinant of our intention. It becomes an ideal to be achieved. We say in effect ‘Society is organic; therefore let us make it organic as it ought to be.’ The contradiction here is glaring. If society is organic then it is meaningless to say that it ought to be. For if it ought to be then it is not. The organic conception of the human as a practical ideal is what we now call the totalitarian state. It rests on the practical contradiction which corresponds to this theoretical one. ‘Man is not free’ it runs ‘therefore he ought not to be free.’ If organic theory overlooks human freedom organic practice must suppress it.

It is one of the major intentions which animate this book to help towards the eradication of this fundamental and dangerous error. It may therefore be advisable at this point to issue a flat denial without qualifications. We are not organisms but persons. The nexus of relations which unites us in a human society is not organic but personal. Human behaviour cannot be understood but only caricatured if it is represented as an adaptation to environment; and there is no such process as social evolution but instead a history which reveals a precarious development and possibilities both of progress and of retrogression. It is true as we have argued already that the personal necessarily includes an organic aspect. But it cannot be defined in terms of its own negative; and this organic aspect is continuously qualified by its inclusion so that it cannot even be properly abstracted except through a prior understanding of the personal structure in which it is an essential though subordinate component. A descent from the personal is possible in theory and indeed in practice; but there is no way for thought to ascend from the organic to the personal. The organic conception of man excludes by its very nature all the characteristics in virtue of which we are human beings. To include them we must change our categories and start afresh from the beginning.

We start then where all human life starts with infancy; at the stage of human existence where if at all we might expect to find a biological conception adequate. If it is not adequate to explain the behaviour of a new-born child than a fortiori it must be completely inadequate as an account of human life in its maturity. The most obvious fact about the human infant is his total helplessness. He has no power of locomotion nor even of co-ordinated movement. The random movements of limbs and trunk and head of which he is capable do not even suggest an unconscious purposiveness. The essential physiological rhythms are established and perhaps a few automatic reflexes. Apart from these he has no power of behaviour; he cannot respond to any external stimulus by a reaction which would help to defend him from danger or to maintain his own existence. In this total helplessness and equally in the prolonged period of time which must elapse before he can fend for himself at all the baby differs from the young of all animals. Even the birds are not helpless in this sense. The chicks of those species which nest at a distance from their food supply must be fed by their parents till they are able to fly. But they peck their way out of the egg and a lapwing chick engaged in breaking out of the shell will respond to its mother's danger call by stopping its activity and remaining quite still.

We may best express this negative difference with reference to biological conceptions by saying that the infant has no instincts. That human beings have no instincts is I understand a conclusion at which many psychologists have arrived and to which psychology as a whole increasingly tends. That this has been a slow process arises from the vagueness of the term instinct. If we insist on defining it in terms of strict biological usage the conclusion follows at once. An eminent biologist to whom I once referred the question even doubted whether there were any unambiguous instances of instinctive behaviour among the higher animals. For our purpose we may define the term instinct as a specific adaptation to environment which does not require to be learned. The term ‘specific’ here means ‘sufficiently definite to fulfil its biological function’. A ‘specific’ adaptation is a response to an external stimulus which is biologically adequate which does not require to be completed though it may be improved by any process of learning. If this is what we mean by ‘instinct’ then it is clear that we are born with none. All purposive human behaviour has to be learned. To begin with our responses to stimulus are without exception biologically random.

There must however be a positive side to this. The baby must be fitted by nature at birth to the conditions into which he is born; for otherwise he could not survive. He is in fact ‘adapted’ to speak paradoxically to being unadapted ‘adapted’ to a complete dependence upon an adult human being. He is made to be cared for. He is born into a love-relationship which is inherently personal. Not merely his personal development but his very survival depends upon the maintaining of this relation; he depends for his existence that is to say upon intelligent understanding upon rational foresight. He cannot think for himself yet he cannot do without thinking; so someone else must think for him. He cannot foresee his own needs and provide for them; so he must be provided for by another's foresight. He cannot do himself what is necessary to his own survival and development. It must be done for him by another who can or he will die.

The baby's ‘adaptation’ to his ‘environment’ consists in his capacity to express his feelings of comfort or discomfort; of satisfaction and dissatisfaction with his condition. Discomfort he expresses by crying; comfort by gurgling and chuckling and very soon by smiling and crowing. The infant's cry is a call for help to the mother an intimation that he needs to be cared for. It is the mother's business to interpret his cry to discover by taking thought whether he is hungry or cold or being pricked by a pin or ill; and having decided what is the matter with him to do for him what he needs. If she cannot discover what is the matter she will consult someone else or send for the doctor. His expression of satisfaction is closely associated with being cared for with being nursed with the physical presence of the mother and particularly with physical contact. It would seem to be from a biological point of view unnecessary. There is no obvious utilitarian purpose in it; for the cessation of his cries would be enough to tell the mother that her efforts had succeeded in removing his distress. It seems impossible to account for it except as an expression of satisfaction in the relation itself; in being touched caressingly attended to and cared for by the mother. This is evidence that the infant has a need which is not simply biological but personal a need to be in touch with the mother and in conscious perceptual relation with her. And it is astonishing at what an early age a baby cries not because of any physiological distress but because he has noticed that he is alone and is upset by his mother's absence. Then the mere appearance of the mother or the sound of her voice is enough to remove the distress and turn his cries into smiles of satisfaction.

Now if we attend to these everyday facts without any theoretical prejudice it is obvious that the relation of mother and child is quite inadequately expressed in biological terms and that the attempt to give an organic account of it must lead to a caricature. For to talk of the infant's behaviour as an adaptation to environment ought to mean that it responds to external stimuli in a way that is biologically effective. Yet it is precisely his inability to do this that is the governing factor. Further when we speak of ‘environment’ in a biological context we mean nature as the source of stimuli and of material for the supply of the organism's needs as well as of dangers to its survival. But the human infant is not in direct relation to nature. His environment is a home which is not a natural habitat but a human creation an institution providing in advance for human needs biological and personal through human foresight and artifice. In general to represent the process of human development even at its earliest stage as an organic process is to represent it in terms which are equally applicable to the development of animals and therefore to exclude reference to any form of behaviour which is exclusively human; to exclude reference to rationality in any of its expressions practical or theoretical; reference to action or to knowledge to deliberate purpose or reflective thought. If this were correct no infant could ever survive. For its existence and its development depend from the beginning on rational activities upon thought and action. The baby cannot yet think or act. Consequently he must depend for his life upon the thought and action of others. The conclusion is not that the infant is still an animal which will become rational through some curious organic process of development. It is that he cannot even theoretically live an isolated existence; that he is not an independent individual. He lives a common life as one term in a personal relation. Only in the process of development does he learn to achieve a relative independence and that only by appropriating the techniques of a rational social tradition. All the infant's activities in maintaining his existence are shared and co-operative. He cannot even feed; he has to be fed. The sucking reflex is his sole contribution to his own nutrition the rest is the mother's.

If we insist on interpreting the facts through biological categories we shall be committed to talking puerilities about maternal instinct. There is no such thing of course; if there were it would have to include some very curious instinctive components such as a shopping instinct and a dressmaking instinct. Even the term ‘mother’ in this connection is not a biological term. It means simply the adult who cares for the baby. Usually it will be the woman who bore him but this is not necessarily so. A human infant does not necessarily die like an animal if his mother dies in childbirth. The mother may be an aunt or an elder sister or a hired nurse. She need not even be a female. A man can do all the mothering that is necessary if he is provided with a feeding-bottle and learns how to do it in precisely the same fashion that a woman must learn.

From all this it follows that the baby is not an animal organism but a person or in traditional terms a rational being. The reason is that his life and even his bodily survival depends upon intentional activity and therefore upon knowledge. If nobody intends his survival and acts with intention to secure it he cannot survive. That he cannot act intentionally that he cannot even think for himself and has no knowledge by which to live is true and is of the first importance. It does not signify however that he is merely an animal organism; if it did it would mean that he could live by the satisfaction of organic impulse by reaction to stimulus by instinctive adaptation to his natural environment. But this is totally untrue. He cannot live at all by any initiative whether personal or organic of his own. He can live only through other people and in dynamic relation with them. In virtue of this fact he is a person for the personal is constituted by the relation of persons. His rationality is already present though only germinally in the fact that he lives and can only live by communication. His essential natural endowment is the impulse to communicate with another human being. Perhaps his cry of distress when he wakens alone in the night in his cot in the nursery has no meaning for him but for the mother it has; and as she hurries to him she will respond to it by calling ‘It's all right darling mother's coming.’

We can now realize why it is that the activities of an infant taken as a whole have a personal and not an organic form. They are not merely motivated but their motivation is governed by intention. The intention is the mother's necessarily; the motives just as necessarily are the baby's own. The infant is active; if his activities were unmotivated he would be without any consciousness and could not even develop a capacity to see or hear. But if he is hungry he does not begin to feed or go in search of food. His feeding occurs at regular intervals as part of a planned routine just as an adult's does. The satisfaction of his motives is governed by the mother's intention. It is part of the routine of family life. Now it is important for us to gain some reliable idea of the structure of personal motivation—in distinction from intention; and since motive and intention operate in the case of the infant in different persons and the baby has no intention of his own we can do this most easily by studying the original motivational endowment of persons in infancy before going on to consider the processes of its development. We must ask ourselves therefore at this point what the structure of personal motivation is as it manifests itself in babyhood.

We can dismiss at once any notion that we are born with a set of ‘animal’ impulses which later take on a rational form. There is no empirical evidence for anything like this and it is inherently improbable. In the absence of intention and knowledge consciousness is motive as we have seen. This means primarily that a feeling is present which selects the movement which responds to a stimulus. In the absence of any behaviour on the part of an organism that is of any activity which is so directed that we can understand it as an adaptation to the environment we have no ground even for suspecting the existence of a motive or indeed of consciousness at all. A motive is an element in or aspect of a behavioural activity. A specific motive means a specific form of behaviour. To say that any living creature is endowed with a set of motives can only mean that it behaves in a set of distinguishable ways and that its behaviour is of a kind which requires us to postulate a conscious component.

Now so far as concerns behaviour which is adapted to a natural environment the human infant does not behave at all. Its movements are conspicuously random. If this were all we should have no grounds for suspecting the presence of motives or indeed of consciousness. The baby's movements could quite well be described as automatisms. What prevents this conclusion is an observable progress with no conspicuous breaks in the direction of controlled activity. The movements gradually lose their random character and acquire direction and form. But the character of this development is quite unlike that observable even in the highest animals. It does not rapidly produce a capacity to adapt itself to the environment. In the early stages at least it does not seem to tend in this direction at all. It is quite a long time before the baby learns to walk or to stand or even to crawl; and his early locomotion so far from making him more capable of looking after himself increases the dangers of his existence and the need for constant parental care and watchfulness. Nature leaves the provision for his physiological needs and his well-being to the mother for many years until indeed he has learned to form his own intentions and acquired the skill to execute them and the knowledge and foresight which will enable him to act responsibly as a member of a personal community.

The child's progress appears rather to consist in the acquirement of skills as it were for their own sake without any distinguishable objective to which they are a means; and the primary stage seems to be concerned with the use of the organs of sense. The baby learns first to discriminate colours and shapes and to distinguish familiar from unfamiliar complexes of these. Similarly he acquires the skill to distinguish sounds and concatenations of sounds and to make different sounds at will. Then he learns to correlate sight and touch acquiring the skill to put his hand on what he sees. In this stage he is learning to discriminate in awareness; acquiring the basic skills which are essential for an awareness of objects that is for sense-perception. Because sense-perception is learned so early in life we are very apt to forget that it has to be learned at all; so that we talk of it as though the power to perceive a world of objects were born in us and that its ‘immediacy’ is an original datum of human experience. This is not so. Perceiving by means of the senses is an acquired skill and varies from one person to the next partly no doubt because of inherited physiological differences; but partly and probably in most cases to a much larger extent because some of us carry the process of learning to use our senses farther than others.

We need not attempt to follow this progress in detail. Only a few general observations are necessary for our purpose. We must first notice the hierarchical and systematic character of the process. The child must first learn the simplest elementary skills whether of sensory discrimination or of movement. His attention and therefore his consciousness is concentrated at any stage upon acquiring the particular skill he is learning. The learning process is a conscious process. But when a particular lesson has been learned the child's attention passes beyond it to the acquirement of a wider skill in which the skill already learned is a component. What he has already learnt to do can now be done without attention automatically; while attention is directed to learning a new skill for which the first provides an unconscious basis. He must learn to stand before he can learn to walk; to discriminate sounds and to produce articulate sounds before he can learn to speak. Each lower-level skill becomes thus the automatic basis of a higher-level skill to be acquired. In this way a hierarchical system of skills is developed the lower levels of which support the higher skills automatically as unconscious components.

This process is usually—and rightly—described as the formation of habits and the integrated system of skills is a system of habits. In an earlier discussion we recognized habit as the negative aspect of an action; as that in action which is not intended because not attended to. It is included in and governed by intention but in itself it has an organic character. It is reaction to stimulus. Bearing this in mind we see that in human behaviour habit takes the place of instinct in animals. It functions in human activity as an instinct does in animal activity. The essential difference is that a habit is consciously acquired. It is a learned response to stimulus while an instinct is a response to stimulus which does not have to be learned. But this difference carries an important corollary. What has been learned can in principle be unlearned and relearned. If this is not in fact the case particularly with the basic habits which are acquired very early it is because the changing of a habit is a deliberate and conscious process which requires a sufficient motive to sustain it; and also because to unlearn a basic habit involves a cessation of all those higher-level activities in which it is an automatic component. It is this functional correspondence of personal habit and animal instinct which lies at the root of the widespread tendency to describe certain kinds of human behaviour as instinctive. It would however be less misleading to reverse the tendency and to speak of animal instincts as innate habits.

We may notice next that this aspect of the child's development has the character of play. Play is activity carried on for its own sake. It is not however random but directed activity. It has a goal; but the goal is for the sake of the activity. Play is therefore essentially concerned with skill—with its acquirement its improvement and its manifestation. The goal is not substantially intended; it functions rather as a test or verification of the skill. We contrast it with work which is activity in which skill is not merely displayed but used; in which the interest centres in the goal to be achieved while the skilled expenditure of energy is merely a means to the end for the sake of this end and therefore normally automatic and unconscious. But the play of children and young animals though it is in this fashion activity for its own sake is not therefore functionless. When seen in relation to the life of the individual as a whole it is clearly an exercise or a practising of skills which are necessary as means to the mature activities of later life. The young imitate in play the necessary activities of maturity; so that their play is a way of learning adult skills. But there is a great difference between children's play and that of animals. The child is learning the life of a personal maturity; the animal a life of biological maturity. The difference is a difference in form not merely in degree of complexity. We need call attention only to a few of the differences. First animals in play are in general practising and so perfecting skills which are in some sense already present from the beginning. The child has to start from scratch and has to learn everything. All his skills are acquired. Secondly the child's acquiring of skills is a cumulative process. Simple skills are used in acquiring more complex skills and the process goes on indefinitely. For in learning them he learns how to learn. Thirdly at an early stage of the process we begin to suspect the presence of deliberate intention and soon we are sure of it. The form of the child's behaviour convinces us that he knows what he is doing. Opinions will differ as to the point at which a mere reaction to stimulus gives place to deliberate action; at which the child can form an intention and so foresee the end which is his goal and select a means of attaining it. We can be sure however that it does not come as a sudden miraculous intrusion; and that it has been present for some time before we can verify its presence as observers. Indeed it would be methodologically correct even if not empirically necessary to assume its presence from the beginning or at least of some capacity of which it is a manifestation and which expresses itself in overt behaviour as soon as the conditions permit.

This leads us to consider the last of the differences from animal learning to which we must refer. Intention involves knowledge and knowledge depends upon the acquirement of reflective skills. The basic reflective skill on which the others depend is imagination; the formation definition and coordination of images especially visual and auditory images. Hand in hand with this there goes the discrimination of feelings particularly those which are associated with tactual experience; and the co-ordination of these with sensory images. This development of imagination is primarily no doubt a negative aspect of the practical skills we have already considered. But there is also a play of the imagination in which the reflective skills are acquired and exercised for their own sake. We call this phantasy. An important part of the child's play activity is therefore the development of a life of phantasy for its own sake which is not governed by logic—that is to say by a practical reference to the Other—but by feeling. There is no good reason to suppose that any but the lowest stage of this acquirement of reflective skills is present in any of the animals.

Finally we must return to our starting-point from which this discussion of the child's development took its rise. We set out to discover the general principles of an original motivation for human behaviour. Instead we have talked about the development of habits laying stress upon the contrast with animal development. For this there were two reasons. The first was that the infant's helplessness and the random character of its earliest movements seem hardly to require the presence of a motive consciousness to account for them. But when we consider the development which has its origin in these random movements particularly the continuity and the hierarchical character of their gradual determination as a system of habit we are forced to conclude that a motivating consciousness is present from the beginning. Automatic reflexes do not develop. They remain with us throughout life in their original form. At most we acquire in some cases a precarious ability to suppress them by deliberate effort. The random character of the movements at the start if it is the beginning of a process of definition and discrimination must be motivated by a consciousness which is itself as indefinite as awareness can be. Our earlier analysis of consciousness2 enables us to give a meaning to this. The infant's original consciousness even as regards its sensory elements must be feeling and feeling at its most primitive and undiscriminated level. What it cannot be is a set of discriminated ‘animal impulses’ each with its implicit reference to a mode of behaviour in relation to the environment which would satisfy them. We have no ground for thinking that the new-born child can distinguish between a feeling of pain a feeling of sickness and a feeling of hunger. This discrimination too we must assume has to be learned. The most we have a right to assert on the empirical evidence is an original capacity to distinguish in feeling between comfort and discomfort. We postulate therefore an original feeling consciousness with a discrimination between positive and negative phases.

The second reason for introducing this excursus on the development of skills is that it has only a negative importance for our main subject. It is essential that it should be considered if only to show that it is not being overlooked. It is important to bear it in mind throughout if we are not to fall into the error of giving a ‘subjective’ account of the personal and so implying the dualism which we have found good reason to reject. But the acquiring of skills the formation of a system of habits is only the negative aspect of personal development. Skill is always for the sake of an end beyond it to which it is a means; and even where fully intentional action is required for the formation of a habit once formed it becomes automatic; attention passes beyond it and it functions as a reaction to stimulus which supports action and is included within action. The progress in skilled behaviour which we have discussed is then only the negative aspect of the child's personal development. Habit we discovered earlier as the negative aspect of action has an organic structure; it is reaction to stimulus. We have therefore been considering the organic aspect of the child's development. For this reason the enthusiast for biological explanation will be tempted to refer to animal analogies at every point and to retort that the differences are merely in complexity and are open in principle to organic formulation. This may be admitted. In the same way physiological processes are open in principle to chemical formulacion through a proper selection of their negative aspect; and the movements of the planets can in principle be accounted for on the Ptolemaic hypothesis though the complexity of the account and the amount of imaginative ingenuity it would involve would render it suspect even if it were given.

We selected this negative aspect of the infant's life by the simple device of thinking of him as an isolate and seeking the origin of his behaviour wholly within himself; by treating him as a self-contained individual. In particular we referred the form of his behaviour wholly to him. But we have already noted that this is not correct. The form of his behaviour is governed by the intention of the mother in terms of a personal mode of corporate life into which it must be fitted. Because of this even the negative aspect of the child's development has a rational form although the intention which rationalizes it has to be for a considerable time wholly the mother's. The consequence is that the skills a child acquires and the form in which he acquires them fit him to take his place as a member of a personal community and not to fend for himself in natural surroundings.

The whole of this aspect of human development then falls within and helps to constitute its positive aspect. It falls that is within the ‘You and I’ of the mother-child relation. For the mother plays with the child and the child responds; the child calls for the participation or at least the attention of the adult and for the admiration and approval of his success. His play has another character which we omitted to mention. It is not merely an exercise but a display of skill. The reference to the mother is pervasive in all the child's activities. He does not merely learn as animals do by instinct helped out by trial and error; he is taught. His acquirement of skills is an education. It is a cooperative process which requires from the start the foresight judgment and action of a mature person to give it an intentional form. Because of this the child's development has a continuous reference to the distinction between ‘right’ and ‘wrong’. He learns to await the right time for the satisfaction of his desires; that some activities are permitted and others suppressed; that some things may be played with and others not. He learns in general to submit his impulses to an order imposed by another will than his; and to subordinate his own desires to those of another person. He learns in a word to submit to reason.

Now the original capacity to feel comfort and discomfort which we admitted is a psychological abstraction. It exists only as the motive consciousness of a pattern of behaviour—an original ‘adaptation’ to the conditions of life. But the total helplessness of the infant makes any directed movement in relation to the environment out of the question. His feeling of comfort or discomfort is indeed the motive of an activity of expression the function of which is to communicate his feeling to the mother and to elicit a response from her. When he feels uncomfortable he cries; and his cry is an unconscious call for assistance. The mother understands it so and responds to it by comforting him.

It has commonly been asserted that what distinguishes us from the animals is the gift of speech. There is an obvious truth in this but it has two defects if used for purposes of definition. The power of speech is sometimes defined as the capacity to express ourselves. This misses an essential point; for the power of speech is as much the capacity to understand what is said to us as it is to say things to other people. The ability to speak is then in the proper sense the capacity to enter into reciprocal communication with others. It is our ability to share our experience with one another and so to constitute and participate in a common experience. Secondly speech is a particular skill; and like all skills it presupposes an end to which it is a means. No one considers that deaf-mutes lack the characteristic which distinguishes them as human beings from the animals. They are merely obliged to discover other means of communication than speech. Long before the child learns to speak he is able to communicate meaningfully and intentionally with his mother. In learning language he is acquiring a more effective and more elaborate means of doing something which he already can do in a crude and more primitive fashion. If this were not so not merely the child's acquiring of speech but the very existence of language would be an inexplicable mystery. Nor should we forget that he learns to speak by being spoken to; he is taught to speak and he understands what is said to him before he is able to respond in articulate words.

It would of course be possible to find in animal life instances in plenty which seem to be and perhaps actually are cases of communication. To take these as objections to what has been urged here would be to miss the point. For these are not definitive. In the human infant—and this is the heart of the matter—the impulse to communication is his sole adaptation to the world into which he is born. Implicit and unconscious it may be yet it is sufficient to constitute the mother-child relation as the basic form of human existence as a personal mutuality as a ‘You and I’ with a common life. For this reason the infant is born a person and not an animal. All his subsequent experience all the habits he forms and the skills he acquires fall within this framework and are fitted to it. Thus human experience is in principle shared experience; human life even in its most individual elements is a common life; and human behaviour carries always in its inherent structure a reference to the personal Other. All this may be summed up by saying that the unit of personal existence is not the individual but two persons in personal relation; and that we are persons not by individual right but in virtue of our relation to one another. The personal is constituted by personal relatedness. The unit of the personal is not the ‘I’ but the ‘You and I’.

We can now define the original motivation-pattern of personal behaviour. We have recognized as the minimum of our original motive consciousness the capacity to feel comfort and discomfort. But the behaviour which is motived by this distinction is we now see an activity which communicates the experience to the mother. The motivation of the infant's behaviour is still bipolar; it has a positive and a negative phase; the negative phase being genetically prior since it expresses a need for the mother's aid while the positive expresses satisfaction in the supply of its needs. But both the negative and positive poles have an original and implicit reference to the other person with whom the infant shares a common life. This original reference to the other is of a definitive importance. It is the germ of rationality. For the character that distinguishes rational from non-rational experience in all the expressions of reason is its reference to the Other-than-myself. What we call ‘objectivity’ is one expression of this—the conscious reference of an idea to an object. But it is to be noted that this is not the primary expression of reason. What is primary even in respect of reflective thought—is the reference to the other person. A true judgment is one which is made by one individual—as every judgment must be—but is valid for all others. Objective thought presupposes this by the assumption that there is a common object about which a communication may be made.

The human infant then being born into and adapted to a common life with the mother is a person from birth. His survival depends upon reason that is to say upon action and not upon reaction to stimulus. We must therefore complete our analysis by defining it in its positive personal mode which contains and is constituted by its negative or organic aspect. The animal has certain needs—for food for warmth for protection. It is endowed by nature with specific patterns of behaviour for their satisfaction. The child has the same needs; but it is not so provided. Instead it has a single need which contains them all—the need for a mother the need to be cared for. If this need is satisfied the organic needs are provided for. The baby does not feed himself he is fed. He does not protect himself he is protected. The provision for his various needs falls within the mother's care as aspects and manifestations of it. They differentiate her caring and give it actuality and systematic form. The baby need do nothing about his organic needs and therefore need not even be aware of them discriminatingly. Now the positive motive of the mother's caring is her love for the child; it contains however and subordinates a negative component of fear—anxiety for the child's welfare. This negative component is essential since it provides the motive for thought and foresight on the child's behalf and for provision in advance against the dangers to its life health and welfare both in the present and the future. Without it love would be inoperative and ineffectual a mere sentimentality and therefore unreal.

Now since the mother-child relation is the original unit of personal existence the motivation of the child's behaviour must be reciprocal even if this reciprocity is to begin with merely implicit. The positive and negative poles of the infant's motivation are the germinal forms of love and fear respectively. The sense of discomfort expressed in the call for the mother is implicitly the fear of isolation; and since isolation from the relationship which constitutes his existence if it lasts too long means death it is implicitly the fear of death. The sense of comfort communicated by his expression of delight in being cared for is the germinal form of love. This bipolar reciprocal love and fear motivation is concerned with maintaining the personal relationship in a common life between mother and child. We need draw attention only to two characteristics which have a special importance for our further study. The first is that the negative pole in the child's behaviour as in the mother's falls within and is subordinated to the positive. Isolation from the mother if it becomes permanent does involve death. The baby who loses the mother loses his life. But the fear of isolation functions in the child's life as a means of bringing the mother's care into active operation and so eliminating the ground for fear. It diversifies the child's experience of the relationship and institutes the rhythm of withdrawal and return to which I referred in the first volume.3 The second characteristic is this. There is from the beginning an element of symbolic activity involved which has no organic or utilitarian purpose and which makes the relationship as it were an end in itself. The relationship is enjoyed both by mother and child for its own sake. The mother not only does what is needful for the child: she fondles him caresses him rocks him in her arms and croons to him; and the baby responds with expressions of delight in his mother's care which have no biological significance. These gestures symbolize a mutual delight in the relation which unites them in a common life: they are expressions of affection through which each communicates to the other their delight in the relationship and they represent for its own sake a consciousness of communicating. It is not long before the baby's cries convey not some organic distress but simply the need for the mother's presence to banish the sense of loneliness and to reassure him of her care for him. As soon as she appears as soon as the baby is in touch with her again the crying ceases and is replaced by a smile of welcome.

  • 1. Suttie, op. cit., p. 15.
  • 2. The Self as Agent, pp. 119 ff.
  • 3. The Self as Agent, p. 181.
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