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7 Soc. F. 1 (1928-1929)
Behavior and Mechanism

handle is hein.journals/josf7 and id is 11 raw text is: Volume VII

September, 19z8

HE modern period of biology began
with the recognition that vital
processes are natural events, not
acts of the caprice of some supernatural
spirit or ghostly presence. Today quali-
fied biologists, with very few exceptions,
accept this doctrine without reserve and
devote themselves to the task of finding
out just how the activities of living bodies
are related with those of inorganic nature
from which we derive our sustenance and
our vital energies.
This does not mean that the behavior of
living bodies is just like that of dead
machines; but it does mean that every-
thing that goes on in a living body is
related in an orderly way, that is in causal
sequences, with the events of the world in
which that body lives. The laws of
biology are not those of physics and
chemistry, but they are congruous with
them and the rules of these relationships
are rapidly being discovered and recorded.
In the study of human nature how far
can we go with the methods of natural
science? The human body has come to
be what it is by a natural process of evolu-
1The substance of this paper will appear in
Volume III of the New World Series, edited by
Bak.r Brownell and published by D. Van Nostrand

tion that has taken many millions of
years. The behavior patterns of this
body have, of course, grown up parallel
with the development of the bodily
mechanisms that behave. This body does
many things that no other animal body
can do. It clears land of forest and plants
it to wheat. It builds machines to plant
and harvest the wheat. It grinds the
wheat and makes bread of the flour. It
markets the wheat, the flour and the
bread by complicated systems of trans-
portation, finance and speculation. It
creates works of art and enjoys them. It
develops ideals of present and future
conduct and character.
There are mental factors in all of these
distinctively human activities, and these
factors are inextricably interwoven with
all problems of human behavior. Can
we write a natural history of this mental
aspect of human conduct as well as of the
physical and physiological aspects?
A man engages in agriculture or manu-
facturing or commerce because in this way
he can satisfy some of his needs or wants.
His needs are very personal; his wants may
be known to himself alone. But his con-
duct in satisfying these needs and wants
is open to general inspection. This be-
havior we can study scientifically much


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