Unconscious Memory
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Unconscious Memory

Unconscious Memory
In reviewing Samuel Butler’s works, “Unconscious Memory” gives us an invaluable lead; for it tells us (Chaps. II, III) how the author came to write the Book of the Machines in “Erewhon” (1872), with its foreshadowing of the later theory, “Life and Habit,” (1878), “Evolution, Old and New” (1879), as well as “Unconscious Memory” (1880) itself. His fourth book on biological theory was “Luck? or Cunning?” (1887). {0a}

Besides these books, his contributions to biology comprise several essays: “Remarks on Romanes’ Mental Evolution in Animals, contained in “Selections from Previous Works” (1884) incorporated into “Luck? or Cunning,” “The Deadlock in Darwinism” (Universal Review, April-June, 1890), republished in the posthumous volume of “Essays on Life, Art, and Science” (1904), and, finally, some of the “Extracts from the Notebooks of the late Samuel Butler,” edited by Mr. H. Festing Jones, now in course of publication in the New Quarterly Review.

Of all these, “LIFE AND HABIT” (1878) is the most important, the main building to which the other writings are buttresses or, at most, annexes. Its teaching has been summarised in “Unconscious Memory” in four main principles: “(1) the oneness of personality between parent and offspring; (2) memory on the part of the offspring of certain actions which it did when in the persons of its forefathers; (3) the latency of that memory until it is rekindled by a recurrence of the associated ideas; (4) the unconsciousness with which habitual actions come to be performed.” To these we must add a fifth: the purposiveness of the actions of living beings, as of the machines which they make or select.


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