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Unconscious Memory

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Published: 1880
Language: English
Wordcount: 72,205 / 217 pg
Flesch-Kincaid Reading Ease: 43.5
LoC Category: Q
Downloads: 1,558 1471
Genres: Non-fiction, Science

For many years a link in the chain of Samuel Butler's biological works has been missing. "Unconscious Memory" was originally published thirty years ago, but for fully half that period it has been out of print, owing to the destruction of a large number of the unbound sheets in a fire at the premises of the printers some years ago. The present reprint comes, I think, at a peculiarly fortunate moment, since the attention of the general public has of late been drawn to Butler's biological theories in a marked manner by several distinguished men of science, notably by Dr. Francis Darwin, who, in his presidential address to the British Association in 1908, quoted from the translation of Hering's address on "Memory as a Universal Function of Original Matter," which Butler incorporated into "Unconscious Memory," and spoke in the highest terms of Butler himself.

Show Excerpt

erefore more acceptable, to start with every molecule as a living thing, and then deduce death as the breaking up of an association or corporation, than to start with inanimate molecules and smuggle life into them; and that, therefore, what we call the inorganic world must be regarded as up to a certain point living, and instinct, within certain limits, with consciousness, volition, and power of concerted action. IT IS ONLY OF LATE, HOWEVER, THAT I HAVE COME TO THIS OPINION."

I have italicised the last sentence, to show that Butler was more or less conscious of its irreconcilability with much of his most characteristic doctrine. Again, in the closing chapter, Butler writes (p. 275):-

"We should endeavour to see the so-called inorganic as living in respect of the qualities it has in common with the organic, rather than the organic as non-living in respect of the qualities it has in common with the inorganic."

We conclude our survey of this book by mentioning the literary controversial part chiefl



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