The Competitiveness of Nations in a Global Knowledge-Based Economy


Tiziano Raffaelli


in Warren J. Samuels (ed.)

Research in the History of Economic Thought

and Methodology, Archival Supplement 4

JAI Press, Greenwich, Connecticut, 1994, 57-93



The Idealistic Background

1.1. The Grote Club

1.2. Marshall’s Acceptance of the Limits of Human Reason through

his Reading of Mansel and Kant

1.3. The Defense of Self-Consciousness Against Evolutionism and Associationism

and Their Uses of Parcimony and Analogy

1.4. Attempts at a Reconciliation between Ferrier’s Idealism and Bain’s Associationism

From Philosophy to Psychophysiology: The Associationist and Evolutionist Approach

2.1. Map and Functions of the Nervous System

2.2. Behavior Variability Replaces “Free Will” and “Soul”

2.3. Spencer’s Concept of A Priori and its Bearing on Geometry

Time and Equilibrium

3.1. Evolutive Differences between Space and Time Perception and the Machine’s Two Circuits

3.2. Marshall’s Ideas About Character: From the Machine to the Economic Agent

3.3. Plurality of Equilibria in Relation to Time Perception

A Few Remarks on “Moral Character

4.1. Character as Power on Anticipating the Future - An Extended View

4.2 Marshall’s Attitude toward Evolutionary Ethics and Utilitarianism

Notes and References



1.1. The Grote Club

From the second half of the 1860s, Marshall was seriously engaged in the study of philosophical subjects.  In 1865 he gained his B. A. at Cambridge University, coming Second Wrangler in the Mathematical Tripos, and became Fellow of St. John’s.  During the same year, for one term, he taught mathematics at Clifton College, near Bristol, replacing Henry Graham Dakyns, one of Sidgwick’s most intimate friends.  There he met John Rickards Mozley (1840-1931), a mathematician of wide historical and theological learning, and a Fellow of King’s College.  He stimulated Marshall’s interest in ethical and theological problems and introduced him to the Cambridge intellectual society.  Sidgwick and Mozley were both members of the Discussion Society, which later came to be known as the Grote Club.


The Club, founded in the early 1860s, was a debating society formed by a small number of university dons who met weekly at Trumpington Vicarage, house of the Rev. John Grote. [1]  In 1855, Grote had been appointed to succeed Whewell as Knightbridge Professor of “casuistry, moral theology and moral philosophy.”  He died in August 1866, at the age of 53, leaving a few published works, among which was the first volume of his Exploratio Philosophica, [2] and many drafted writings, which another member of the Club, John Eyton Bickersteth Mayor (1825-1910), then Lecturer on Classics at St. John’s and University Librarian, soon began to edit.

Grote’s anti-Utilitarian and anti-Associationist Idealism was much less dogmatic and systematic than Whewell’s.  With more interest in the dialectical research of truth than the end itself, his conception of philosophy as a never-ending, clarifying discussion was similar in this aspect to his brother’s, the Associationist, Utilitarian George, who took Plato’s [HHC - Greek not reproduced] as his model. [3]  Marshall read J. Grote’s works very carefully and was undoubtedly sympathetic with his attempts to make room for different opinions and to find a compromise between them.

In October 1866, Frederick Denison Maurice (1805-1872) was appointed to the Knightbridge Chair.  Spiritual leader of the Christian Socialists, Maurice was one of the most eminent Victorian intellectuals.  In 1853, he had been forced to resign from the London Chair of English Literature and History on religious grounds, but his intellectual and moral standing had been increased rather than diminished by this quarrel.  Maurice’s theology, aiming at a direct and positive knowledge of religious truths, contrasted sharply with Henry Longueville Mansel’s confession of our necessary ignorance of the Absolute. [4]  Marshall was highly impressed by Mansel, an author which he read on Mozley’s advice.

Maurice brought to the Cambridge Idealistic tradition his commitment to social reform and his denial that it was possible to conceive of the individual outside his social relations.  Notwithstanding Marshall’s later critique of the “emasculating” results of Maurice’s and Kingsley’s teaching, [5] their concern for poverty and its degrading effects was never to be lost in Marshall’s economics.

The other active members of the Club were John Venn (1834-1923), Lecturer on Moral Sciences at Gonville and Caius’ College, whose Logic of Chance had a lasting influence on probability theories, and Josiah Brown Pearson (1841-1895), Fellow of St. John’s and author of the well-known theistic essay The Divine Personality.  Marshall described him as “a devoted pupil of J. B. Mayor, and an earnest broad churchman.” [6]

After Grote’s death, the Club was reorganized and the meetings held in each member’s room in turn.  Marshall attended the Club from the beginning of 1867.  The papers published here for the first time, especially the first two


which are the less distinctly Marshallian, together with Marshall’s own minutes of some of the meetings, are almost the only primary source of information about the discussions which went on at the Club. [7]

Political questions (mainly the Parliamentary Debate on the 1867 Reform Bill), mesmerism, chiromancy and other “ghostological” phenomena (as Sidgwick later called his interests), choice of text books for the Moral Sciences Tripos and philosophical issues were recurrent subjects of conversation.  The value of psychology, of moral Intuitionism, and Utilitarianism were the subjects of the few papers of which we have any knowledge. [8]

In 1868 two of Marshall’s closest friends joined the Club, John Fletcher Moulton (1844-1921) and William Kingdon Clifford (1845-1879).  Of the latter Marshall had a very high esteem, “a profound admiration” [9] and Clifford’s more mature and elaborated philosophy will be compared below to some of Marshall’s ideas.

The Club provided Marshall with a stimulating environment and an incentive to better his philosophical training, which was only at its beginning and sometimes compelled him to keep silent. [10]  He intensified his philosophical readings and for some years kept his interest in the questions arising from them alive, [11] not only for academic reasons (in 1868 he became Lecturer on Moral Sciences, giving up his teaching of mathematics).

An attempt will be made, over the following pages, to reconstruct and understand this philosophical journey as it emerges from Marshall’s own readings, quotations, comments, and, especially, from the four papers themselves.  On the one hand, this attempt gives us an idea of English philosophical thought during that period as perceived by a young, intelligent aspirant philosopher.  Marshall’s discussion of Bain, Ferrier, Spencer, Darwin, Mansel, Kant, Mill, Dugald Stewart, Hamilton, his view of the controversy between Associationism and Intuitionism, his notions of self-consciousness and of the relations between psychology and biology may be useful sources of information to scholars of Victorian philosophy.  On the other hand, the fact that this journey was interrupted because Marshall devoted his life to economics suggests an approach attempting to relate his philosophical insight to his scientific enterprise.  It is not surprising then, that there is a family likeness between these two products of the same mind.

The papers published here have been referred to by many authors: to these scholars I owe some interesting hints which, being of a general kind, I can not acknowledge one by one. [12]


1.2. Marshall’s Acceptance of the Limits of Human Reason through his Reading of Mansel and Kant

We can conveniently begin this reconstruction of Marshall’s philosophical training with Mansel, whom he himself later singled out for the purpose. [13]  Mansel’s “philosophy of consciousness,” which made human experience the only possible criterion of truth for metaphysical, logical and religious problems, introduced a somewhat narrow but very fertile translation of Kantian Transcendentalism into British culture, already accustomed to the distinction between “essence” and “phenomenon.”  Dugald Stewart had stressed the “proper limits of philosophical curiosity,” [14] spreading the message of Newtonian science (viz, its refusal to seek metaphysical explanations of empirical laws) to the sciences of the human mind.  Hamilton, Stewart’s follower and editor and in his turn highly valued and edited by Mansel, had later insisted on the “conditioned” and “relative” character of human knowledge.  The cross-breeding of this Scottish tradition with Kantism was Mansel’s successful task.

The Oxford theologian did not admit any other cognitive possibility than that exemplified by human reason, while, at the same time, he pointed out the existence of an unknowable Absolute beyond its reach.  According to his view, man is endowed with faculties and forms of thought which exhaust every possibility of knowledge.  Their limits set the landmarks of his theoretical and practical rule over the world.  Kant, who had been unsatisfied with similar conclusions, strove to overcome these limits, but his attempt brought him, in Mansel’s own words, to “treat an impotence of thought as if it were a faculty.” [15]  This was the source of the dialectical illusion which led to the Critique of Practical Reason and in the end, according to Mansel, to all the false claims of German Idealism.  It was to avoid this aftermath of Kantism that Mansel, developing Hamilton’s conception that all knowledge is knowledge of the conditioned, suggested a radical distinction between knowledge and faith, “between the power of conceiving and that of believing.” [16]  God, The Absolute, the Unconditioned, can be but an object of “belief,” set against “reason”: “we do not know... what is the absolute nature of things, but we believe that there is an absolute nature above and beyond the range of our knowledge.” [17]  Accepting revelation on extrarational grounds, Mansel called his philosophy of religion “subordinate,” “auxiliary to revelation,” [18] and disputed Kant’s attempt to discuss religion within the limits of reason.  Against any philosophical system which considered reason as a self-sufficient entity - in either the pantheist’s or the positivist’s version - Mansel underlined the need to curb the claims of reason and resort to faith.

Many of these concepts were revived and elaborated in different contexts.  Part one of Spencer’s First Principles, “The Unknowable,” was avowedly


inspired by Mansel.  So was his critique against Mill’s claim that Empiricism could stand on its own legs, a critique which Marshall made his own. [19]  Meanwhile, the subject of “belief’ crossed the borders of religion and entered the fields of logic and ethics.  Its psychological and epistemological grounds were investigated by Venn and Sidgwick, among others. [20]

Close examination of intellectual and/or experimental knowledge revealed the existence of extrarational motives for human actions.  English philosophy, following the traditions of Reidian “common sense” or of Humean “habit and custom,” did not pretend to build man’s actions and beliefs on abstractly rational foundations.  This attitude paved the way for the spread of Evolutionism, according to which human reason is but a tool, leading to a more refined organization of pre-rational elements.

Awareness of the limits of reason, and of its most successful offspring, science, was a widespread feature of Victorian English culture.  The word “agnosticism,” coined by Huxley in 1869, was the radical outcome of it (certainly well beyond Mansel’s own intentions).  The same awareness was common to both Sidgwick’s ethics and Marshall’s economics: both dealt with definite, conditioned problems, and restrained from giving free course to fantastic, absolute Utopias. [21]  The task of economic science was always considered by Marshall to consist not in laying the foundations of perfectly rational behavior, but in clarifying and bettering forms of action solidified in “common sense,” for which he showed great respect.

Nevertheless, the refusal of absolute rationality, of final solutions to the Platonic problem of the One and the Many, did not mean the acceptance of a defined barrier between them.  It was not enough to say, with Mansel, that “ ‘the Absolute’ in philosophy always has meant the One as distinguished from the Many, not the One as including the Many.” [22]  Acknowledging the existence of limits to our intellectual (and practical) capabilities did not imply allowing them to be drawn once for all.  Even if far from denying the existence of an Unknowable Absolute, [23] Marshall approached German Idealism with a less critical attitude than Mansel’s, probably under the influence of Morell. [24]  Marshall’s admiration for Kant helped him to go beyond Mansel’s religious orthodoxy and denial that reason could investigate revelation, as shown by the following passage in a notebook, written around 1867: “Philosophy is the servant of theology’, said someone. ‘Yes - said Kant - but the question is whether she is the torch-bearer or the train-bearer.” [25]

Marshall’s refusal to admit predetermined limitations to reason and an absolute separation between the One and the Many is emphasized in one of the following papers by his critiques of the lack of evolutionary dynamism of Mansel s human subject.  In Metaphysics or the Philosophy of Consciousness Mansel, tackling the question of the human faculties, while


insisting on the unity of consciousness as a preliminary condition of their existence, missed the point of their development in relation to that of consciousness. [26]  Marshall’s judgment of these two aspects is wholly different.  On the one hand, he is faithful to the Idealistic conception of self-consciousness as essential to human knowledge.  This is clear in the first two of the following four papers: “Ferrier’s Proposition One” gives credit to one of the most powerful statements of this doctrine, while “The Law of Parcimony” exposes the faults of an extension of Evolutionism beyond its proper limited field.  On the other hand, Marshall strongly criticizes Mansel’s failure to see the growth of the human mind in all its aspects and stresses the need to understand the development of both knowledge and consciousness according to the principles of Associationism and Evolutionism.  This is explicitly stated in the final part of the first paper and fully developed in the others.


1.3. The Defense of Self-Consciousness Against Evolutionism and Associationism and Their Uses of Parcimony and Analogy

The “Law of Parcimony” was read by Marshall at a meeting of the Grote Club on March 27, 1867, according to Marshall’s own account of the meeting. [27]  Probably the first of the four papers, because of both the early date and its content, it is an assessment of the relative value of the principle which Hamilton had applied as a criterion for his “scientific deduction of the philosophy of mind from the data of consciousness.” [28]  One of the most famous applications of the principle of parsimony was Hamilton’s deduction of the principle of causality from man’s impotence to conceive of an absolute, unconditioned beginning or to accept the idea of an endless regress without any beginning.  In Hamilton’s view, the concept of cause could be accounted for by the simple fact that man can not avoid it.  He criticized Reid’s assumption that man had a positive idea of cause through the experience of his internal, active powers and considered man’s limitations, rather than his powers, to be the source of the concept of cause.  The principle of parsimony, a new version of Ockam’s razor and an anticipation of Mach’s economic principle, was widely upheld and used in philosophical debates as an epistemological tool avoiding useless metaphysical issues. [29]

In his paper Marshall endorses the principle as far as it refers to empirical phenomena, but refuses obedience to those unrestrained uses of it which lead to the denial of the existence of any unobservable entity, self-consciousness in particular.

Marshall steps on firmer ground when he is able to trace the legitimate source of power of this principle back to analogy, and this helps him to distinguish between the right and the wrong uses of the principle.  The


hypothetical and unproved results reached through analogical methods had already been underlined by Mill in his System of Logic.  This of course did not weaken the heuristic value of analogy.  Darwin’s work was by far the clearest instance of the achievements made possible by the uses of analogy and its bearing on human sciences soon became one of the main philosophical issues. [30]  It is not surprising therefore that Marshall examines the possibility of erecting a science of psychology on the same methodological ground as that used by Darwin to assess his theory of evolution.  Darwin’s theory and method are compared to Bain’s psychology in order to throw some light on the latter’s achievements and shortcomings.  The conclusion is that Darwin’s method is applicable only to cases in which we have direct evidence of the evolution of a certain psychological element from others.  Beyond this field there is still a region in which evolutionary explanations reached through analogical reasoning are not to be accepted: not all the phenomena of the human mind can be treated like those of biology.

Marshall’s attitude toward Darwinism gives no hint that he was drawn into that “wave of Darwinian enthusiasm” that “carried away” “the knot of Cambridge friends of whom Clifford was the leading spirit.” [31]  He certainly refused those kindred ideas “already at an earlier time applied and still being applied to the framing of a constructive science of psychology.” [32]  Nevertheless the seed of Evolutionism was soon to grow luxuriantly and dominate the dormant seed of Idealistic self-consciousness.

Owing to this development, Marshall’s later conceptions of parsimony and analogy seem to have drifted apart.  A wider use of analogy, in particular between biological and social phenomena, was to become one of the leading characters of Marshallian economics, while, on the other hand, his attempts to avoid the dangers of “parsimony” were to increase alongside his growing awareness of the complexity of social phenomena. [33]


1.4. Attempts at a Reconciliation between Ferrier’s Idealism and Bain’s Associationism

“Ferrier’s Proposition One” is ideally a sequel to “The Law of Parcimony” and an anticipation of”Ye Machine.”  The sophisticated opening of the paper on the meaninglessness of the question “whether matter can think” is a clear sign of Marshall’s tendency to take the debate out of the ontological arena.  His growing confidence in evolutionary explanations encroaches on the line of separation between men and brutes, a problem that occupied his mind for some time and that prompted him to assemble a long list of quotations under the heading Man and Beast. [34]  Although Marshall maintains that all the mechanical agencies are common to both, differing only by degree, his


Idealism is guaranteed by the title itself, by the emphasis laid on the first proposition of Ferrier’s Institutes of Metaphysic.

James Frederick Ferrier, another disciple of Hamilton and heir to the Scottish philosophical school, made self-consciousness the pivot of his philosophy, the fixed and unifying element in the multiplicity of human experiences, “the one feature which is identical, invariable, and essential in all the varieties of our knowledge.” [35]  In a long essay contributed to Blackwood’s Magazine, Ferrier denied any value in the objective science of the human mind and maintained that considering man as a “calculating machine,” as an “automaton,” meant reducing him to a purely animal dimension, losing sight of that eminently human feature represented by the notion of “Self.”  “The difficulties inherent to the establishment of a ‘science of the human mind’ are insuperable,” he concluded, and its results would however be “worthless and false.” [36]

Ferrier’s “Self” is in open contrast to natural causality.  Its birthplace is an act of denial of external determinism, an act of Will and Freedom, through which the “Self” begins to exist as a conscious being, outside and against the natural kingdom.  In ethics, his philosophy became known as the “philosophy of strife” and paid a tribute to the spirit of battling against external conditions, of refusing to comply with them.  This moral doctrine too was an object of discussion at the Grote Club, with Maurice praising it and Sidgwick sneering at it. [37]

Ferrier’s exaltation, in a pure form, of the dualism between “Ego” and “not-Ego” had the consequence of relegating all vital phenomena accounted for by science and not implying self-consciousness into the field of nature.  Among them he included reason, which, therefore, he did not hesitate to concede to animals. [38]  In so doing, Ferrier thinned the attributes of consciousness, reducing it to a point of infinite intensity but almost no extension.  Moreover, in the Institutes of Metaphysic, he mitigated his polemics against the “science of the human mind” and admitted its limited utility.

The first proposition of the book, however, proclaimed self-consciousness to be the necessary feature of human knowledge: “along with whatever any intelligence knows, it must, as the ground or condition of its knowledge, have some cognizance of itself.” [39]  It was followed by a series of propositions, expressing the truths of philosophy, and counter-propositions, enunciating the false opinions of association-psychology, which Ferrier exposed in his comments on them.  The chain of propositions, deduced more geometrico from the first, constituted his whole metaphysical system.

Ferrier’s claim that his philosophy was “Scottish to the very core’ [40] had some grounds, because of his insistence that all knowledge was relative to and dependent on self-consciousness.  But on one point his system was in


sharp contrast to the spirit of the Scottish school: in denying the existence of any limits to human knowledge, it denied the existence of an Absolute out of the reach of reason, and claimed that nothing beyond reason could even be imagined.

While this character of his system was almost unanimously rejected, Ferrier’s first proposition became a sort of banner against the growing claims of Associationism.  It was a synthetic, symbolic statement of the Idealists’ refusal to bow their heads to the scientific treatment of man.  Mansel for example, who criticized Ferrier’s system as well as the unnecessary duplication of the subject into an “I” who knows and an “I” who is conscious of knowing, wrote: “this proposition is true, and highly valuable... Professor Ferrier’s proposition is unassailable, and he has done good service to Philosophy by the prominent position he has given to it.” [41]  Grote, whose conception of philosophy as [HHC - Greek not reproduced] was directly opposed to Ferrier’s deductive system, ascribed to him the great merit of having stated that no knowledge is possible without consciousness.  He defined the first proposition a “master-proposition,” [42] antithetic to positivism, which mistook mental mechanism for feeling, corporeal communication for knowledge, psychophysiology for philosophy.  The proposition was seen as a kind of litmus test, widely discussed and long remembered. [43]

In his Exploratio Philosophica, Grote expressed his opinions through the discussion of a series of books, disposed so as to form “a sort of scale, spectrum, or gamut, of which Professor Ferrier represents the extreme philosophical end, and Professor Bain the extreme physiological or physical.” [44]  But, in his characteristic tone of compromise, he thought that the two extremes were “different” rather than “hostile to each other.”  Grote was not sceptical, as Stewart and Hamilton had been, [45] about psychophysiological research; on the contrary, he encouraged it: “we want now more of mental comparative anatomy, or the study of the varieties of animal intelligence.” [46]  At the same time he reminded the reader that physiology could never explain how we come to unify our sensations, to build an external world made of “objects” which are not immediately given to the senses, to refer our sensations to a conscious Self, to gain the idea of Freedom as the basis of morality.  Grote did not even give up his hope that Bain could attain the right philosophical theory, as the Aberdeen professor was aware that the existence of an external world was dependent on that of a perceiving mind. [47]

Grote’s view of the controversy came up again in 1867 with the publication of his first posthumous article.  From this article Marshall transcribed an essential passage, which reveals the kind of compromise between Ferrier and Bain he was looking for: “the body does not do one sort of work and the soul another, so as that if we find the body doing all


that we previously supposed the soul did, we have lost all reason for supposing the soul to exist.  If soul and body are the terms we like to use, then the body is the instrument of the soul... and if we suppose the soul to have nothing to do but to manage the body as its instrument, that very management seems to me to be enough, and to imply what makes the supposition of it not otiose.” [48]

Marshall probably wrote the first two papers under the influence of Grote.  With his critical attitude and compromising mood, leading mainly to negative results, he could have been considered by the other members of the Club as the true heir to the late Reverend’s sophistical spirit.

The compromise between two authors, each credited with having “something to say which his antagonist denies and which is true,” [49] does not mean that Marshall was deviating from the pursuit of truth. [50]  In this, as in many other later cases, he wanted to avoid the dangers of one-sidedness, and did not allow any perspective to be obscured from the inquirer’s view: as truth has no privileged access, it can only be the result of a process of discussion among scientists.  This open-mindedness had its complementary counterpart in the importance of what Sidgwick called the “consensus of experts”: [51] the scientific character of a discipline is proved by the degree of agreement between its practicioners.  This explains why in “The Law of Parcimony” the lack of “a unanimous decision” as to the genesis of emotions and ideas was seen as a proof of the uncertain scientific value of Evolutionist psychology. [52]

His tackling of the controversy between Philosophy of Consciousness and Associationism, innate powers and acquired cognitions, ends in a compromise because he sticks to Ferrier’s Proposition One and tries to save it from any Evolutionist or Associationist explanation of consciousness.  Marshall accepts from both the Scottish and the Cambridge philosophical traditions the idea that only something inexplicable through experience, association, and mechanism can change “mechanical phenomena into mental phenomena.” [53]  This idea sets the limit to Bain’s and Mill’s attempt to free psychology from the burdens of self-consciousness.  Against their radical Empiricism he maintains that the “Self” is the preliminary condition of all our experiences, what makes it possible to give them order and bring them to unity.

While those philosophical traditions, however, remained attached to self-consciousness, Marshall was attracted by mechanism.  In his hands self-consciousness was a dead end: necessary to avoid physical determinism and the reduction of mind to a passive receptor, it was incapable of any development and could not help in understanding the functioning of the human mind.

In the end Marshall’s view of the controversy points to a definite way of setting scientific research in motion: Bain’s account of the order and


progress of the human mind is considered “very near the truth,” [54] and the acceptance of Bain’s method of analysis means that, given the postulate of the existence of a germ of self-consciousness, “everything is accountable for by the evolution of purely mechanical agencies.” [55]  This is the path leading to the construction of the automaton which Marshall accomplished in “Ye Machine” and it is only the perspective from this paper that allows us to see the first two in a different light: they were preparing the ground for the construction of the mechanism of the human mind.



2.1. Map and Functions of the Nervous System

To understand the human mind Marshall resorts to Associationist and Evolutionist neuropsychology.  It is in its mechanisms, no longer absolutely banned, that he has to seek answers to the question: “How does the mind work?”

This position was not dissimilar to that of many neurophysiologists who, like William Benjamin Carpenter and the German Johannes Müller, maintained a dualistic philosophy. [56]  According to this view, will, consciousness, and freedom were superimposed on the automatic associations of the human mind.  These latter were the Many, over which the will, the One, this “dominant power... which gives unity, purpose and complete harmony of action to the whole man,” [57] had the same relation as that of the piano player over the keyboard.  While philosophy, however, was happy to be left with self-consciousness as its object, neurophysiology tried to find its way through the mechanism and became more and more interested in its complexity, considered to be a prerequisite of human will and freedom:

“While,” as Carpenter wrote, “the Human organism may be likened to a keyed instrument, from which any music it is capable of producing can be called forth at the will of the performer, we may compare a Bee or any other insect to a barrel-organ, which plays with the greatest exactness a certain number of tunes that are set upon it, but can do nothing else.” [58]

To the end of his days Carpenter was faithful to his Kantian position and refused to yield to the doctrine of Bain, Spencer, and Maudsley, according to which this complexity was not just a prerequisite of freedom, but freedom itself.  It was far more important, however, that agreement on the scientific explanation of mental processes was growing despite these philosophical quarrels.

The nervous system was conceived as a reacting structure, formed of neurological “routes” linking the external stimuli to the organic actions.  Its


map was drawn on the hypothesis of the existence of a series of stimulus-response circuits of different degrees of complexity.  At the lowest level neurophysiologists put reflex actions, produced in the peripheral ganglia of the nervous system (spinal cord), where the first contact between afferent and efferent nerves took place (the distinction between the two types of nerves had just been stated separately by Bell and Magendie).  There the most elementary impressions were transformed into motor impulses through a mechanical process investigated by Marshall Hall.

When the impressions were transmitted deeper inside the nervous system (into the sensory ganglia), the external messages became sensations; and then, when these were sent on (into the cerebrum), they became ideas and emotions.  In this upper level they could give rise to intellectual processes over which, in its turn, the will could exercise its power, producing voluntary movements.  All the discharges of the external messages which took place, either in the lower nervous system or in the cerebrum, before reaching the will were said to be “automatic” or “reflex.” [59]

The possibility of different circuits through which a message coming from the external world into a nervous structure could find its way out, ending in an organic action, was the commonly recognized feature of neurological systems.  “The ganglion cell,” wrote for example the physician Henry Maudsley, another author read by Marshall, “is a center of independent reaction - a station on the line which may either send on the message or send off an answer.” [60]  The inward path comes necessarily to an end when the message reaches the highest possible level.  Here “the energy of an idea,” that, in its turn, is a transformed version of the energy of the original stimulus (or better of its residual energy which has not passed “immediately outwards in the reaction”), “abides in the cortical centers, and passes therein from cell to cell.” [61]

It should be clear by now that Marshall was following a trodden path when he endowed his Machine with two nervous circuits of different lengths.  The first is capable of producing simple answers to the external stimuli; the second has all the characteristics of the more complex nervous routes conceived by the neuroscientists of his time.

Even if the two circuits of brain activity attributed to the Machine were by no means unusual, [62] the localization of the first circuit in the cerebellum was no longer so common.  The opinion, commonly upheld by many writers of the previous centuries, that the cerebellum was located along the main nervous route and was the point of interchange and correlation between sensations and higher intellectual processes was no longer widely accepted. [63]  It had been replaced first by the Phrenological doctrine of the cerebellum as the seat of sexual appetite, and then by the theory of the French physiologist Jean-Marie Pierre Flourens, whose experiments refuted the


Phrenological hypothesis and proved the function of this organ to be that of the co-ordination of movements.  As a consequence of these experiments, substantially accepted by all the leading scientists, the cerebellum came to be generally considered a separate structure, operating on a different line with respect to the functions performed in succession by the medulla oblungata, the corpora striata and the cerebrum.  At the same time there were reasons to assume it to be a kind of first intervention nervous center.  The cerebellum was known to grow with evolution, like the cerebrum but to a lesser degree.  In physiology it was called “the little brain,” and anatomically compared to the structure of the cerebrum. [64]

New hypotheses, however, as well as (or even more than) remnants of the former theory, might have had some influence on Marshall.  Before assessing their special interest, [65] we have to outline some general consequences of this pluralistic and hierarchical view of the circulation of nervous signals which Marshall shared with many of his contemporaries.

Independently of the number and localization of circuits, this conception provided a satisfactory explanation of the so-called “secondarily automatic” [66] actions, especially developed in man.  While animals were known to be endowed with innate instincts (a problem that always defied any Associationist, but not Evolutionist, explanation), man’s automatisms were said to be “not... original but acquired.” [67]  Walking, reading, piano playing, and so forth, were considered complex actions which at first required an exercise of will and conscious attention, and only after many repetitions became unconscious and automatic: that is, such as to be performed while attention and will are intent on some other object. [68]  Once acquired through repetition, what we might call an “action pattern” becomes customary.  Carpenter in particular studied the mechanism through which we come to acquire “secondarily automatic” habits and was responsible for the popularity and wide acceptance of the theory of “unconscious cerebration,” that is, of the existence of mental processes which go on without any subjective cognition of them.  Their automatic character, dependent on the previous establishment of neurological associations in the brain, induced Carpenter and other scientists to consider these processes similar to reflex actions, which were known to happen without the intervention of the brain. [69]

These studies provided the powerful tool needed for the Associationist-Evolutionist explanation of the human mind.  In his Principles of Psychology, and particularly in the second edition, Spencer applied this conception to the whole nervous system and made it into an evolutionary theory of the system itself: as water flowing on a land surface forms channels that later make its flowing easier, so, due time being allowed, mental routes become solidified nerves which later make the same routes easier.


The learning process was that of “trial and error”: effective actions are first performed by accident, then memorized, tried again, reinforced, and finally automatized. [70]  In an evolutionary view of the process, these automatisms are gradually transformed into instinctive, reflex actions.  The forming of these nervous connections was the main object of Bain’s studies, from which Marshall derived most of his Machine’s attributes.  Among them there was the artificial character of its instinctive actions, and therefore their pliability, implied in Marshall’s correlation between “instinct” and “contrivance,” clearly stated in “Ye Machine.”  An instinct is never wholly predetermined; it is formed “by chance,” [71] through a complex series of mental associations. [72]

Another interesting result of this process is that it releases will and consciousness from the burdens of routine activities.  The automatic performance of ever more complex actions allows them to move on and create new forms of behavior.  When these in turn become automatic, will and consciousness are free to move another step upwards.  The creativity of the mind is therefore both opposed to its automatisms and dependent on them.  If the automatisms were not enough, will would be involved in performing ordinary actions.  If they covered every possible action, there would be no room for voluntary action.  Habit and choice (of which decision by an “alert” business man is the clearest example) are the two corresponding concepts in Marshall’s economic thought.


2.2. Behavior Variability Replaces “Free Will” and “Soul”

The Idealistic assumption of a self-consciousness, not mingling with these processes but only using them for its own purposes, in accordance with Grote’s view, might well explain why Marshall felt authorized to build the Machine in his third paper.

This assumption is indeed suggested by the recognition of the difficulties or even inabilities that the Machine experiences when it tries to form abstract ideas and to conceive necessary truths, but an annotation to the first volume of the second edition of Spencer’s Principles of Psychology, issued in 1870, posing the same problem again, shows that it can also be explained in evolutionary terms.  In margin to a paragraph where Spencer underlines the great complexity, generality, and abstractness of certain kinds of mental connections, that therefore require a well-developed intelligence such as only civilized men possess, Marshall writes: “‘Ye Machine’ could make general propositions with regard to classes, but with difficulty.” [73]  Whatever the interval between the paper and this annotation, Marshall was probably ready to reduce this difficulty to a question of degree even while he was writing the former, where he acknowledges that propositions relating to


matters of fact are uncertain and subject to mistakes even when elaborated by the human mind. [74]  Moreover, as we shall see, in the fourth paper he maintains that the history of evolution as well as a Transcendental Self might account for our confidence in relations of ideas like those of geometry.  From both viewpoints the difference between men and mechanical agents grows narrower and narrower, and the reader of “Ye Machine” cannot avoid being struck by the explanatory power and effectiveness of this mind-like model, built only with associative elements.

To concede that the Machine has a kind of volition and the power of anticipating the future is the first step toward a mechanical explanation of will, freedom and consciousness, the Idealistic philosopher’s irreducible concepts.  Above all, the idea of neurological routes of different lengths, and of their lengthening in cases which cannot be handled in a customary way, was indeed Bain’s, Spencer’s, and Maudsley’s device for dealing with will and consciousness.  Spencer in particular explained the forms of behavior implying reason, will, and feeling as consequences of the interruption of automatic or reflex answers: “Memory, Reason, and Feeling, simultaneously arise as the automatic actions become complex, infrequent and hesitating; and Will, arising at the same time, is necessitated by the same conditions... The cessation of automatic actions and the dawn of volition are one and the same thing.” [75]  When the agent is in a conflictful situation, a doubt arises which causes him to restrain from acting.  This standstill - that Marshall describes as a situation in which we are “compelled... to suppose all the motion to cease” [76] - was called “pause,” “hesitation,” “suspense.” [77]  It is in this situation that the external stimulus is sent into the inner nervous system, a process called “reverberation” by Spencer, to give rise to new psychical processes.

According to this view, will and consciousness could designate types of human action instead of faculties of the human mind.  Freedom itself could be displaced by the growing mechanical complexity of the nervous system and the consequent multitude of possible combinations.  So far as there is but one associative possibility, there is but one resultant action.  As we ascend the scale of nervous complexity, we have more and more possible routes which the external message can activate.

This process, however, gives rise to another complementary tendency: more freedom does not mean more unpredictability.  The existence of more complex systems of action patterns, organized in individual characters, increases the stability of human behavior.  Elementary actions are at the same time determined and subject to sudden changes: they can be radically and almost instantaneously modified by a slight variation of the nervous routes, that is, of the mechanical associations implied in them.

In a discourse delivered in 1868, Clifford compared the changes produced by elementary “impulsive” actions to the directional variations of a


shuttlecock hit by a battledore.  These actions, however, are controlled by character, whose changes are more gradual and, in their turn, controlled by what he calls the “Spirit of the Age.”  The three levels of changes, whose order corresponds to the time needed for their taking place, are not independent: the sum of the elements of one level is an element of the one above (character is the history of an individual’s actions), and, at the same time, each level gives the regulative criteria for variations in the one below (actions vary according to character).  This function of character is almost the same as that which Marshall attributes to it in “Ye Machine.”

“Plasticity” (in contrast to “crystallization” and “rigidity”) and “stability” (opposed on the one hand to “instability” and on the other to “fixedness”) are features of human behavior which the model helps to appreciate.  An acquired automatic behavior is both rigid and fixed.  Its only variability is the possibility of being broken, like a crystal.  It is the complex pattern connected to the idea of character which stabilizes behavior and makes it susceptible of regular and progressive variations. [78]

The coexistence of stability and variation and other aspects of Marshall’s later social thought are related to this background.  The concept of seemingly sudden variations controlled by a stable and slow-moving system was applied by Spencer to social and by Marshall to economic organisms.  Psychology helped to bridge over the gap between biology and social science.

As far as referred to individuals, the importance of the system’s “plasticity,” of its capability of undergoing changes without breaking, meant that once “plasticity” of character had been lost and an organism was perfectly adapted to its environment, its capability of withstanding external modifications had gone.  Marshall’s stress on the importance of general education was a consequence of this conception, and the dangers of the laborer’s excessive specialization remind us of Clifford’s warnings against the organism’s complete adaptation to a given environment. [79]

The concept that the building up of character depended on every man’s own actions, and that these actions were in their turn controlled by individual character, was generally agreed upon.  Both Maudsley and Carpenter placed man’s moral responsibility in this process.  However, while the new evolutionary approach saw man as a self-made automaton, the Idealistic tradition retained “Free Will” as the acting subject. [80]

It is not surprising that the metaphysical discussion about “Free Will” scarcely attracted Marshall’s attention. [81]  Once scientific psychology had provided him with an operative solution, metaphysics could be set aside.  Of this and similar problems he was probably thinking later, when, referring to these early years of his life, he wrote that “psychology seemed to hold out good promise of constructive and progressive studies of human nature and its possibilities; and I thought that it might best meet my wants.” [82]  From


the contrast between Bain and Spencer and, for instance, Ferrier and Mansel the following judgment might first have arisen : “Varieties of knowledge.  Coeteris paribus, that is most valuable to the world which is cumulative.  From this point of view any branch of knowledge is to be prima facie condemned in which advanced students find it still profitable to read books written very long ago.  E.g. Metaphysics as compared to Psychology.” [83]  This cumulative character of science distinguishes it from other human enterprises, as Marshall himself will confirm in his major work. [84]

His early interest in assessing the similarities and dissimilarities between “Man and Beast” was soon replaced by the study of the psychological processes described by Bain and Spencer.  This shift from metaphysics to science is itself a proof that Marshall’s compromise between the two philosophical schools was not neutral.  Starting with a strong defence of self-consciousness, of the uniqueness of man, he gradually adopted the evolutionary explanation of the human mind, ending with a thorough acceptance of Evolutionism.

In the end he questioned even the uniqueness of the human soul, a position which definitively closed the gap between him and Clifford on the latter’s enthusiasm for Darwinism.  Clifford soon took up with Sir Tylor’s explanation of Animism and religious beliefs put forth in Primitive Culture (1871) and denied the existence of a Soul separated from the body.  He openly expressed this position in “Body and Mind” (l874), [85] where he also assessed the place of man in evolution: “we have to consider not only ourselves, but also those animals which are next below us in the scale of organisation, and we cannot help ascribing to them a consciousness which is analogous to our own.” [86]  Keynes will tell a similar story about Marshall’s later opinions on the immortality of the human soul: “his greatest difficulty, he said, about believing in a future life was that he did not know at what stage of existence it could begin.  One could hardly believe that apes had a future life or even the early stage of tree-dwelling human beings.  Then at what stage could such an immense change as a future life begin?” [87]


2.3. Spencer’s Concept of A Priori and its Bearing on Geometry

Marshall’s starting points - his resistance against the all-pervading power of Evolutionism and his insistence on the distance which separates biology from psychology - are strikingly at variance with his later admission that biology is the Mecca of the economist.

Spencer was the “wooden horse of Troy” needed to break that resistance.  His Evolutionism did not aim at the dismissal of notions irreducible to Associationist psychology, like those of “a priori” and “necessary” truths.  The human mind, historically built through a linear and continuous process,


was nevertheless divided, at any given moment, between what was still undergoing modifications and what was already well tested by evolution. [88]

Empiricism, following the example of Condillac’s Statue, tried to explain every feature of the human mind on the basis of its external sources.  Spencer’s Evolutionism was double-faced as regards this attempt.  On the one hand it strengthened it, allowing the building process much more time and transforming the Statue into a racial “Animal Colossus.” [89]  On the other hand, it criticized the denial of the existence, at each evolutionary step of an organic structure reacting on the external stimuli and independent of them.

This activity of the mind, also stressed by Lewes and Maudsley, was the main source of criticism of the “experience-hypothesis,” according to which all our cognitions are acquired. [90]  The faults of this hypothesis lay in its refusal of predetermined conditions of experience, in the absurd opinion that “the presence of a definitely organized nervous system is a circumstance of no moment - a fact not needing to be taken into account.”  The mind not only “grows” with experience, but always “is”: “To rest with the unqualified assertion that, antecedent to experience, the mind is a blank, is to ignore the all-essential questions - whence comes the power of organizing experiences? whence arise the different degrees of that power, possessed by different races of organisms, and different individuals of the same race?” [92]  The distinction between sensations and ideas, typical of the Kantian doctrine, was one of the elements of the Evolutionist critique of Sensism, grounded on physiological arguments, which Marshall accepted.

Nevertheless, the absolute character of Kant’s categories and forms of thought was unacceptable to Spencer, whose avowed task was to furnish “a solution of the controversy between the disciples of Locke and those of Kant.” [93]

This solution helped Marshall to emerge from the dilemma between Transcendentalism and Empiricism, particularly as regards the origin of the concepts of space and time. [94]  In his notebook he quotes Spencer’s position twice: “The abstract of all sequences is Time: The abstract of all co-existences is Space.” [95]  These concepts are not “original conditions of consciousness under which sequences and co-existences are known.”  “Our conceptions of Time and Space,” Spencer continues, “are generated as other abstracts are generated from other concretes: the only difference being that the organization of experiences has, in these cases, been going on throughout the entire evolution of intelligence.” [96]  In Spencer’s view, the preestablished internal relations which are “a priori” in any individual man “are not independent of experience in general;... they have been established by the accumulated experience of preceding organisms.” [97]

According to Spencer, Kant’s “forms of intuition” are nothing more than consequences of our bodily forms, cardiac and locomotive rhythms, sensory


structure.  In “The Duty of the Logician” Marshall rightly points out that Spencer has changed the meaning of “a priori” “with Kant ‘a priori’ means ‘of which the origin is unknown’; with H. Spencer it means ‘of which the origin probably dates from a long time back’.  I often wonder what Kant would have said if he had had H. Spencer’s interpretation of the words shewn to him.”  The Transcendentalists are right, therefore, when they say that the subject imposes its own mental schemes on the external world.  These schemes are in turn dependent on the external world, every organism having changed and continually changing in relation to it.  The Associationists too are right when they say that the subject is formed through its relation with the external world, provided they mean the race and not each individual subject.

In this view object and subject are no longer opposed but correlated: the traditional metaphysical opposition gives way to the evolutionary study of environmental changes and the corresponding organic variations.  The faculties of the subject have now acquired a wide margin of individual and social variability which allows future racial evolution.

“The Duty of the Logician” deals with geometry, which provided the main battlefield for the contending armies, its axioms being taken as the most evident instances of synthetic, certain propositions.  Kant’s explanation was that space is an a priori form of intuition, the role of experience being only that of evoking its Euclidean properties.  Directly opposed was Mill’s and Bain’s explanation of geometrical axioms through past experience and association of ideas, which could, according to Barn, “exhibit what seemed to be the genesis of the notions of space and time]; and if that is satisfactory to the reader an a priori origin is disproved by being superseded “ [99]

Marshall s training was in the Kantian tradition through his teacher Isaac Todhunter, a follower of Whewell, [100] but thanks to Spencer he was no longer compelled to take a definite side the paper shows him wavering between Kant’s theory of knowledge and Spencer s with a slight, if unconfessed, preference for the evolutionary explanation of the origin of necessary truths.  Spencer’s philosophy suggests the view that our confidence in the truths of geometry could be due to the experience of the race that it could have been formed not only with experience, but also by it. [101]  Marshall’s rearrangement of geometrical definitions and axioms is an attempt to build a science that is not in contrast with either of the above mentioned philosophical theories.  Whatever the origin of definitions and axiomatic principles, they must be stated according to criteria of economy, distinctness, and intuitiveness.  To these criteria Marshall adds the requirement that definitions be constructive, that is, capable of leading to the construction of the defined thing “out of the given ideas.” [102]


Although the relative dating of this manuscript is difficult because of its different subject, the first part suggests that it was written somewhat later than “The Law of Parcimony,” and probably later than the other two papers too. [103]  Frequent references to Kant, instead of to Mansel and Ferrier, authorize this dating, while the more mature discussion of Spencer’s philosophy reinforces it.

The paper is on the verge of the debate triggered by the discovery of non-Euclidean geometries which, as Helmholtz said, proved that “the axioms on which our theoretical system is based, are no necessary truths, depending solely on irrefragable laws of our thinking” and therefore “refute[d] the claim that the axioms of geometry are in Kant’s sense necessary consequences of a transcendental form, given a priori, of our intuition.” [104]  It was indeed in that period that English mathematicians began to study non-Euclidean geometries, Clifford being one of the first to understand their philosophical interest. [105]  Marshall was soon to follow and by 1875 had clearly realized the impact of non-Euclidean geometries on Kant’s philosophy.  In June, conversing with Emerson, he spoke of “Helmholtz’s case of beings living on the surface of a sphere” and went on to point out the bearing of this argument on “fundamental questions of theology and morality”: “Kant says the mind may know certain moral and theological propositions certainly and a priori, for it does so know certain physical propositions.  I searched his work to find what instances he gave of this: when I found that all these were deprived of value, I changed my attitude to some extent with regard to the other propositions.” [106]

While writing the paper, however, Marshall is still unaware of these new developments and intent on removing faults - then commonly acknowledged - from Euclid’s text. [107]  His reorganization of the principles of geometry has the double task of improving the intuitive perception of their truth (the Psychologist’s requirement) and their practical use (the Builder’s requirement).



3.1. Evolutive Differences between Space and Time Perception and the Machine’s Two Circuits

Unlike Clifford, Marshall did not think that the properties of space were the key to solving the puzzle of the Universe.  While his friend was “above all and before all a geometer” and the properties of space were to “remain the perpetual subject of his contemplation,” [108] Marshall’s Universe was primarily the world of human experience, of psychological and moral problems.  What space - the form of the outer world - was to Clifford,


time - the form of the inner world - was to Marshall: it came to the forefront as the fundamental category and universal condition of human consciousness.

Mansel’s psychological analysis had already pointed out the centrality of time, and opened the way toward the recognition of the relativity of our perceptions of time.  In his quarrel with Maurice’s absolutist idea of eternity, Mansel upheld the inevitably conditioned character of our notion of time.  As a “form of intuition” time is not absolute, a pure entity having no relation with human experience.  The only notion of time we can attain is that of our consciousness: a duration made of successive moments.  It is not in our power to conceive eternity as something different from continued and unlimited duration.  While Maurice aimed at a direct knowledge of God and God’s attributes, Mansel warned that we can not “attain to the philosophy of the unconditioned,” rising “to the conception of existence out of time.” [109]

Mansel’s notion of time, however, was still derived from Kant’s and was therefore fixed, unhistorical.  It was Spencer who set the concept of time free from those chains and exalted the variability of time perception.

In the second edition of his Principles of Psychology, Spencer pointed out an evolutionary distinction between space and time perception, parallel to that between cerebellum and cerebrum.  In Part One of the book, issued as a separate instalment in 1868 and then as part of the first volume of the book in 1870, Spencer wrote that “the hypothesis thus reached a priori, is that the cerebellum is an organ of doubly-compound co-ordination in space; while the cerebrum is an organ of doubly-compound co-ordination in time.  The a posteriori evidence, so far as I have examined it, appears congruous.”  In the accompanying note he went on to say: “It should be remarked that the above-proposed definitions are, to a considerable extent, coincident with current conceptions.  The cerebrum is generally recognized as the chief organ of mind; and mind, in its ordinary acceptations, means more especially a comparatively intricate coordination in time - the consciousness of a creature ‘looking before and after,’ and using past experiences to regulate future conduct.  In like manner the function ascribed to the cerebellum in the foregoing paragraph partially agrees with that which M. Flourens inferred from his experiments. [110]

The “a posteriori evidence” in favor of this double attribution is provided in Part Five of the same book, issued for the first time in 1870.  Firstly, Spencer contrasts space perceptions, more uniform and with a limited field of activity, to time correlations, more “heterogeneous” and practically unlimited.  Secondly, this psychological evidence concurs with the physiological differences of the two nervous organs: the texture of the cerebellum, he writes, “is more regular than that of the cereberum. [111]  Thirdly, evolutionary evidence also supports this attribution.  On the one


hand, birds of prey, with a much less developed nervous system than man but with a relatively great cerebellum, are capable of almost perfect spatial coordinations.  On the other hand, man’s incomparable supremacy over any other organism, due to his uniquely great cerebrum, is shown primarily by his power of co-ordinating sequences of events.

Although there is no independent evidence that Marshall wrote “Ye Machine” after having read some of these sentences, it is probable that his ideas were nurtured by them.

The cerebrum of Marshall’s Machine too is responsible for the variability of time coordinations.  The simpler nervous circuit, attributed to the cerebellum, is a one-way system, from the external stimulus to the response action.  The intermediate structure through which the nervous messages are circulated, the cerebellum, is only able to pass these messages forward, even if the route is sometimes lengthened and made indirect by those complex associations called “instincts.”

Slightly varying Marshall’s own notation, [112] the first circuit can be represented in this way:

sensation* (in the body*) à ideas of sensation* (in the cerebellum*) à idea* of action* (in the cerebellum*) à action* (in the body*).

When this circuit cannot be closed because the action is impossible, the link between the second and the third step is broken and the idea* of sensation*, incapable of finding its way outwards, is sent upwards into the cerebrum*.  This upper level allows the Machine “to anticipate... the consequences of its actions” and to perform, in Spencer’s words, “ideal motor changes” [113] in its mind before acting.  The Machine is no longer determined to act by the message received from sensation.  This message is autonomously elaborated and transformed in a process called “reasoning.”

The new circuit can be represented by substituting the one-way link between the second and the third step with three new steps wedging a two-ways link (taking place in the cerebrum) in the previous circuit:

sensation* à idea* of sensation* à idea à of sensation* (in the cerebrum*) ßà idea** of action* (in the cerebrum*) à idea* of action* à action*.

The addition of this two-way section of the circuit gives the Machine a broader scope of behavior.  For example, it can decide now to perform a certain action in future circumstances, or it can act so as to prepare the conditions which allow the performance of a favorable action in the future.

This mechanism also provides us with Marshall’s earliest discussion of information and its elaboration.  The recognition of the activity of the mind, which Spencerian Evolutionism has in common with Idealism, is Marshall’s


guiding principle: information is not passively received, but retroactively conditioned by the Machine’s preexisting nervous structure.  Sensory stimuli are unmodifiable data only at the level of the peripheral nervous ganglia.  Once transmitted to the inner brain, they undergo a process of interpretation capable of giving them different meanings.  Information assumed from the same objective situation varies in relation to the functioning of the nervous structure which receives and elaborates it.  It is the power of anticipating the future that makes the Machine react on information and change it.  Cybernetic feedback is an interesting feature both of Marshall’s Machine and of his economic agent.


3.2. Marshall’s Ideas About Character: From the Machine to the Economic Agent

As conflicts between action alternatives are now represented in his Machine’s brain*, Marshall tries to find criteria capable of settling them.  If nervous signal transmission were frictionless and the time available infinite, the Machine would always follow the path leading to the greatest pleasure (pleasure and pain being its only motives for action).  Its constitution being different, however, the Machine has a natural tendency to prefer the shortest routes, requiring less time and less expenditure of power. [114]  Because more complex associations entail more time and a loss of power, the chess-automaton might prefer the set of moves leading “to the gaining of a bishop” to the longer one leading “to the gaining of a castle.”  Its choice will depend on its speed of transmission of nervous messages, which determines its individual time perception [115]  According to Marshall this speed is a measure of character which, like Clifford s character controls behavior in conflictful situations “When a man is playing at chess just as when he is doing anything else his character is displayed in the way in which he grasps at immediate advantages or, on the other hand, tries to look further.  But it will depend on his power whether he can do so or not.  If the wheels etc. of the Machine be sufficiently numerous, it must of course have infinite power.  And if its character* is such that distance does not tell at all. (i.e. if the tightenings above alluded to take place in an indefinitely short space of time), its desire* to win the game would always prevail over every other desire* and it always would win, if it were possible to do so under the given circumstances.” [117]

A comparison of this long quotation with passages of Principles of Economics dealing with character suggests some interesting correspondences: there too character is often identified with power of anticipating the future and is responsible for those distinctive individual features which produce different subjective appraisals of future advantages  The value of


a remote future benefit is not an intrinsic, objective property but “a subjective property, which different people would estimate in different ways according to their individual characters, and their circumstances at the time.”  It can therefore happen that “one will reckon a distant benefit at nearly the same value which it would have for him ifi it were present; while another who has less power of realizing the future, less patience and self-control, will care comparatively little for any benefit that is not near at hand.” [118]

This individual character taken on average, or, more precisely, average time perception, is the main reason for the reward of waiting.  Marshall does not consider marginal productivity to be the cause of it but only an useful indicator of its level; its cause must be sought in the economic agents.  “Men’s unreadiness to look forward” sets the limit to capital supply and makes it necessary to reward waiting.  This is emphasized to the point of admitting that, if human character, on average, were different from what it is, it would be possible to do without interest, or even to have a negative rate of interest. [119]

In a similar way average character is one of the main causes of the reward of labour.  The supply of skilled workmen depends on average parental willingness to start children off on a job requiring a long apprenticeship; and as the extent of this willingness in a population is a consequence of its average power of anticipating the future, this power regulates the wages structure. [120]  These concepts are fully developed in a long manuscript, written after the Principles: “those who bear the cost of nurturing and training the coming generation of workers do not receive the greater part of the reward which is returned to their sacrifice”; therefore, to think of their children’s education, parents must not be “immersed in the pressing needs of the moment but ever mindful of the future.” [121]  It is not by chance that Marshall speaks of investment in “personal capital” and compares it to investment in “material capital,” both being consequences of the same mental phenomena. [122]  Moreover, parents and business men face the same problems when they have to choose definite directions of investment: “in so far as they [the parents] specialize the training of their children on particular occupations, they must reckon for a more distant future than a business man is generally required to do when procuring a new machine.” [123]


3.3. Plurality of Equilibria in Relation to Time Perception

The chess player, facing different possibilities of action conflicting in his mind and looking for a way of satisfying his expectations, has other analogies to Marshall’s economic agent.  Both have many different solutions open to them and leading to a satisfactory equilibrium.  Every mental circuit


corresponds to a situation of equilibrium if the action performed by it produces a result which is better for the organism than the initial condition.

The equilibrium reached starting from a given point is neither univocal nor abstractly predeterminable. [124]  Even if Marshall endorsed Utilitarianism, as we shall see, he did so with some reservations, one of which was his refusal to admit an Utilitarian abstract calculus of the most pleasurable solution independently of the agent’s perception of the context. [125]  He always dismissed the idea of comparing solutions which are remote from men’s thoughts.  An instance of this is his well-known unwillingness to draw supply and demand curves stretching far beyond the given situation.

Moreover, the method of “trial and error,” through which a satisfactory solution is reached, implies that equilibria are dependent on the path followed by the agents because past paths are memorized by them and their traces are recorded in their minds.

The multiple nature of the related concepts of equilibrium and pleasure-seeking action depends mainly on man’s time perception.  Time is the most important cause of the plurality of equilibria.  In complex situations there are manifold possible actions available to an adequately complex mind in relation to its different time perspectives.

This formulation of decision-making problems anticipates essential elements of the Marshallian theory of capital investment.  The cloth manufacturer, for example, faces a network of alternatives widening with his time horizon, although in practice his investment decision is simplified because he has to consider only quick and highly predictable factors. [126]

It is possible that this awareness of the complex and pluralistic nature of human conduct prompted Marshall’s economics toward time period analysis.  If this suggestion is correct, the antiessentialistic, antimetaphysicaloperativeness” of Marshallian time might be due not only to its dependence on different sets of objective forces (a fact brilliantly shown by Opie, under the influence of Bridgman’s analysis of the concept of “simultaneity” in relativity theory), but also to its subjective side, to the lack of uniqueness of time perception by human minds.  Period analysis as a scientific tool, was already at work in Marshall’s early manuscript “On Value,” probably written in 1870, [127] when his psychological interests had not yet faded away.

His reading Thornton’s On Labour might have given the initial push.  This work, known in the history of economic thought mainly for its critiques on the wage-fund theory which caused Mill’s recantation, had a momentous if short-lived influence on price theory too.  In the first part of the book the author refuses the simple, tautological explanation of price based on the “law of supply and demand” and points out the existence of a few cases of multiple equilibria and of many more in which the seller has the power of fixing the commodity selling price


Mill and other economists tried to repair the damage caused by this amateurish yet devastating attack, but it was a famous engineer, Fleeming Jenkin, who refuted it, making use of the modern graphic notation also introduced by Marshall in his manuscript.  Both these authors, however, realized that problems still lurked behind this analytical solution.

Marshall in particular, after having dealt with multiple equilibria at length and having clarified the distinction between stable and unstable equilibria, turns his attention to Thornton’s second group of cases.

Thornton divides the causes of price indeterminacy depending on the seller’s power to fix a “reserve price” into three groups:

1. different subjective expectations about the future of the same market situation;

2. different influences that even identical expectations exercise on current decisions of different subjects; and

3. different time horizons of the expectations themselves. [128]

While unpredictability of behaviors, prices, and equilibria is the obvious, desired result of this analysis, Thornton does not dismiss the possibility of classifying expectations according to their time horizons.  This is explicit chiefly in the second edition of On Labour, where greater attention is paid to “reserve prices”: “Prospective supply and demand, when spoken of generally, or with reference to an unlimited future, are indeed... indefinite quantities between which no ratio is possible.  But if the future over which the prospect extends be confined between specified bounds of time, they no doubt become at once definite quantities admitting of exact comparison.” [129]  But even in the first edition, the same concept is touched on: “Prospective supply can signify nothing more distinct than the whole quantity expected to be brought to market within a definite period.” [130]

Though Thornton’s considerations appear to make no distinction between supply and demand, they actually refer to the seller’s “reserve price” only.  Marshall accepts and stresses this asymmetry, and avowedly sets the buyer’s expectations aside because the buyer is “somewhat pressed for time” [131] and therefore has a small variability of expectations (and actions).

Stimulated possibly by Thornton’s hints, and led on by his psychological studies, Marshall investigates the rules for the classification of expectations according to their time horizons.  The conditions on which selling prices depend are “conveniently” grouped into four classes of cases, corresponding to four time perspectives.  Each of the four classes of cases is characterized by Marshall’s attempt to find the specific objective conditions leading to the satisfaction of the seller’s initial expectations. [132]


The subject, whose behavior is organized according to the principles laid down in “Ye Machine,” is now faced with the external intersubjective reality of the market.  Economics is the science which studies his actions in it.  The complex reality of market economy, by the way, affords the best guide for the growth of the complexity of the human mind; a fact which made Marshall think that the main fault of Socialism was that it tended to produce “want of initiative, of variation and of progress generally by means of trial and error.” [133]

After a long period of latency, this Marshallian intuition of the indissoluble relation between equilibrium, time and expectations will return, without any substantial change, as the pivotal element of the Principles of Economics, where it is well-matched with biological analogies.




4.1. Character as Power on Anticipating the Future - An Extended View

The connection between character and power of anticipating the future was one of the fundamental features of Victorian ethics.  Although character was never more than an elusive concept throughout the period, and Mill’s ethology an aspiration never to be fuffilled, particularly after the failure of Phrenology, [134] time perception was a common element of every description or explanation of character.

The most famous Victorian writer on “character,” Samuel Smiles, exalts the power of abstaining from short-sighted satisfactions and of preferring more distant but more important and durable ones.  Working men’s savings are one of Smiles’s favorite tests of their moral standing and, as a consequence, Savings-Banks are the chief trainer of their character. [135]

Teetotalism involves overcoming the attraction of the immediate pleasure of drinking alcohol and reinforcing that of the more indirect enjoyments of health, family life, and education.  The character of a population or even that of a race consists in its foresight: savages are often described as living “hand to mouth” and the lack of “savings” of the so-called “Bushmen” and other African tribes is unfavorably compared to the provident “abstinence” of the English.

Physiology supplied the scientific explanation of this idea of character.  The correspondence between subjective and objective time is not univocal and predetermined.  Past associations play their role, for example, in the drinker’s mind when he enters the pub, but this automatism can be broken and, during the intervening “pause,” new associations can be experienced and longer cerebral circuits activated.  The pleasure of going to the library can be raised to the same level by correct anticipation of its more distant


benefits.  If this happens, new automatisms can be generated and going to the library can be made as easy as going to the pub was before the change took place.  Subjective time has changed; the newly generated associations, entailing the anticipation of a more distant future, now have an activation time similar to that formerly required by the old one.  Just as time condensation possibilities have no definite limit, nor do possibilities of improving character.

In “Ye Machine” the dependence of character on time perception, which is implicit in the Victorian debate, becomes explicit, precise and quasi-measurable, at least theoretically.


4.2 Marshall’s Attitude toward Evolutionary Ethics and Utilitarianism

This aspect of character, however, which determines the Machine’s power of representing its own benefits in its mind and then acting in order to reach them, is considered by Marshall a private aspect, undeserving to be called “moral.”  In his eyes, the morality of actions consists in their consequences to others, in their ability to benefit others.  The Machine’s second element of character, which Marshall calls “moral character,” derives from a sympathetic attitude to other Machines’ sufferings.  “Sympathy” prompts the Machine to act for the benefit of others; this concept, of course, is derived by Marshall from the Scottish moral philosophers, as well as from Mill.

This means that egoism and altruism are not one and the same thing; they appear to be in conflict with each other, in fact, and the latter needs its own motivating cause in the individual organism.  The optimistic, evolutionary resolution of this conflict is however already at hand: “I ought incidentally to call attention to the power of Natural Selection in preserving those races in which the principle of sympathy was most powerful.” [136]

Altruism is rewarded by natural selection because it improves the chances of survival of human (and animal) societies.  The same opinion, substituting the Darwinian concept of “natural selection” with the Spencerian one of “struggle for survival,” will be stated in the Principles of Economics: “We find that among so-called social animals, such as bees and ants, those races survive in which the individual is most energetic in performing varied services for the society without the prompting of direct gain to himself... The struggle for existence causes, in the long run, those races of men to survive in which the individual is most willing to sacrifice himself for the benefit of those around hjm.” [137]

Sympathy, reinforced during evolution, bridges the gap between selfishness and altruism.  The first arch is the family, typical case in which personal pleasure cannot easily be separated from that of others.


The Machine’s endowment of sympathy, innate as its intellectual powers, increases with experience and gives rise to voluntary sympathetic actions, in the same manner in which the others, growing in complexity, give rise to the will.  This analogy is made explicit in a passage of the Principles of Economics: the “unreasoning impulse” which prompts animals and men to act for the benefit of others is transformed into “deliberate, and therefore moral, self-sacrifice,” and “gradually, the unreasoning sympathy, of which there are germs in the lower animals, extends its area and gets to be deliberately adopted as a basis of actjon.” [138]

The contraposition between “self-sacrifice” and “unreasoning sympathy” is only apparent, and reminds us of that between voluntary and automatic actions: the latter are “gradually” transformed into the former by the growing complexity of the mechanism.  There is no absolute discontinuity. [139]

Moral and intellectual powers are a priori in Spencer’s meaning of the word.  The acceptance of this “racial” reinforcement of sympathy proves that Marshall was already working his way “towards that ethical creed which is according to the Doctrine of Evolution.” [140]  Evolutionary ethics, however, was not in sharp contrast with Utilitarianism, as Spencer himself tried to make clear.  On the contrary, Evolution was expected “to give... a new system of ethics, combining the exactness of the Utilitarian with the poetical ideals of the Transcendentalist.” [141]

Marshall does not seem to have any major objections to Utilitarianism, provided its aim be rightly understood to be general, not individual, happiness, and remembering the observations made above on the lack of uniqueness of the concepts of equilibrium and pleasurable action.  His numerous comments on Grote’s critique of Mill bear witness to his defence of this interpretation of J. S. Mill and Bentham. [142]  So does his wife’s recollection of Marshall’s courses on moral and political philosophy during the years 1873-74. [143]  Even when, in the third edition of the Principles, he questions the terms “pain” and “pleasure” and proposes to substitute them with “satisfaction” and “detriment,” he is not refuting Utilitarianism but only trying to avoid unnecessary connections between economics and this ethical doctrine. [144]

That very passage is itself the clearest witness to Marshall’s sympathetic attitude toward any ethical theory supporting the view that man’s duties are not so mean as individualistic Hedonism would have us believe.  This result could be reached, according to him, by supplementing the old Utilitarian conception with an independent “major premiss” that can be derived from different philosophical perspectives.  Both Sidgwick and Spencer, among others, might have felt at ease with this position, the first resorting for the purpose to a kind of Kantian moral imperative, of “golden rule,” the second simply to the concept of sympathy explainable by evolution. [145]


Utilitarianism, however, is an ethical theory.  It gives a precept, a moral norm, and must be distinguished from the statement (true on other grounds) that men act following a system of rewards and punishments called pleasures and pains. [146]  This system is not a theory of ethics, but an operative mechanism which guides the evolution of individual behavior and explains the growth of intellectual, practical, and moral powers.  The slow accumulation of automatic instincts concerns ideas, self-regarding actions, and moral actions.  As a consequence of this growth, consciousness, no longer required for the performance of correlations that have since become automatic, is free to widen its sphere of action.  As creative intellectual acts are those exceeding customary, instinctive associations, so, by analogy, we may argue that creative moral actions are those whose degree of sympathy exceeds that already stored in moral instincts.

In both the moral and the intellectual fields, the problem-finding activity of the mind takes place at the margin of what has already been acquired.  In the meantime, the store of socially useful instinctive behaviors and of cognitive or practical-private automatisms grows on the same principles.  The similarity may be pushed further: sympathy implies an extension of the subject’s time horizon from the consideration of its own to that of family, social, racial interests.

Law, politics, and social rules, in general, must assist this process, introducing a system of rewards and punishments such as to allow the building-up of an ever growing number of socially useful automatisms.  In this way Marshall conceives, and highly values, the possibility of a continuous, progressive automatization of altruistic behaviors in a market economy.  In the same way the human power of self-sacrifice is set free to introduce new and more advanced moral actions, new criteria of morality.

This conception of ethics completes Marshall’s early picture of man, derived from his psychological and philosophical studies.  He will later enlarge it into a more complex view of society as a whole, without altering its original colors.



1. In the early years of the club’s activity, see A. and E. M. Sidgwick and Rothblatt.  Some confused information is also contained in a letter by Mozley (Sidgwick Papers, c.104-66).

2. The first volume was published in 1865, the second, with a reprint of the first, in 1900.  See Major’s introduction in Grote (1900).

3. See G. Grote, vol. 1, ch. 6.

4. See Maurice (1853, 1859) and Mansel (1854, 1858).

5. Letter to Bishop Westcott, 20.1.1901, in Marshall (1925), p. 394.

6. Sidgwick Papers, c. 104.65.  (Unless otherwise stated, all references are to this collocation).  The quotation is from Marshall’s letter to Mrs. Sidgwick, accompanying his


minutes (see next note).  Excerpts from the letter were published in her husband’s memorial book (Sidgwick, A. and Sidgwick, E. M.).

7. Marshall called these minutes “extracts from a common place book” (Sidgwick Papers) of which no other traces have survived.

8. Cf. Schneewind for the significance of these discussions on Sidgwick’s philosophical thought.

9. Notes, in Marshall Papers, large brown box, XXVI.

10. At the meeting of 19.2.1867, Sidgwick endorsed the proposal to substitute Stewart with Whewell’s Elements of Morality on the list of the books to be read for the Tripos.  Marshall, although agreeing with Venn’s critique of the book, decided not to speak because he had only read “a few pages” of it (Sidgwick Papers).

11. “My zeal for economics would never have me got out of bed at five o’clock in the morning, to make my own coffee and work for three hours before breakfast and pupils in mathematics: but philosophy did that till I became ill and my right foot swelled to double its normal size.  That was in 1867.  Soon after, I drifted away from metaphysics towards psychology...  I always said till about 1871 that my home was in Mental Science.”  Letter by Marshall to James Ward, 23.9.1900, in Marshall (1925), p. 418.

12. See Whitaker (1975), Soffer (1978), Camporesi (1980 1985), Becattini (1975), and Butler (1991).

13. “Mansel’s Orthodoxy.  The dynamics of question, but still orthodox”; from an autobiographic note dated 3.X.1920, Marshall Papers, large brown box, V.  The other notes of this item were written in the 1860s and 1870s, the autobiographic one being added later.

14. Stewart (1877), vol. 4, p. 53.

15. Mansel (1856); in Mansel (1873), p. 174.

16. Mansel (1866a), p. 18.

17. Mansel (l866b); in Mansel (1873), p. 346.

18. Ibidem, p. 340.

19. See below, “The Law of Parcimony,” p. 100.

20. Venn (1866), ch. 6, and (1869); Sidgwick (1871).

21. However, Sidgwick was much more critical than Marshall of Spencer’s conception of an absolute ethics corresponding to a state of perfect adaptation between man and his environment.  Marshall’s more positive attitude toward Evolutionism made him think of the possibility of a perfect human nature and made him aware of the regulative value of utopia.  (See for example his lecture on “The future of the working classes,” delivered in 1873, in Marshall (1925).)  Becattini (1991) emphasizes the meaning of some short manuscripts, written during the last fifteen years of Marshall’s life, in which he identifies Absolute Utopia with Communism and, while leaving it out of the Agenda, does not dismiss the possibility of its realization in an indefinite future for which we have to “postulate... perfection of human nature.”

22. Mansel (1866a),p. 111.

23. Clifford, deeply influenced by Spinoza’s philosophy, did not admit any Unknowable: “a wise man only remembers his ignorance in order to destroy it” (“Aims and Instruments of Scientific Thought,” 1872, in Clifford (1886), p. 106.

24. “Human knowledge, though never absolute, yet is, strictly speaking, illimitable” (Morell, p. 307).

25. The passage is taken loosely from Kant (1796, p. 39).  In 1868 Marshall was driven to Dresden by his desire to learn German so as to be able to read Kant in his own language (Scott, p. 448, note).  Toward the end of his life Marshall wrote: “Kant my guide, the only man I ever worshipped” (Marshall Papers, quoted by J. M. Keynes, in Pigou (ed.) pp. 10-11).  For Marshall’s admiration of Kant, cf. also Scott, p. 449, and the text published below in the appendix.


26. Mansel (1860, pp. 40ff).  For Marshall’s critiques see below, “Ferrier’s Proposition One,” p. 107.

27. “After tea I apologized for the fragmentary character of my essay on the Law of Parcimony and read it” (Sidgwick Papers).

28. Hamilton (1860), vol. I, p. 268.

29. For an example of this use of the principle, see below, note 99.

30. Darwin himself (1859) wrote: “in the distant future psychology will be based on a new foundation, that of the necessary acquirement of each mental power and capacity by gradation” (last chapter).  In the sixth edition, (1872), he added that this foundation had been “already well laid by Mr. Herbert Spencer.”  See also Huxley (1863).

31. See Pollock’s Introduction in Clifford (1886), p. 24.

32. Ibidem. Here Pollock refers to Spencer’s work.

33. One of the earliest examples of his well-known dislike of excessive simplifications and too easy solutions is to be found in his review of Jevons (1872): the author is credited with having shown the faults of Ricardo’s too simple theory of value and called “attention to the danger of such parsimony” (1925, p. 95).

34. This is my reconstruction of the list:

“Cessation of ideas leads man to seek the both consequences and causes of events, brutes only to seek consequences [in Hobbes: causes].  Hobbes, Leviathan [(1651)1, ch. III; yet Brutes have prudence [Hobbes: it is not prudence which distinguishes man from beast], ib[idem]; see also p. 11.  B[rutes] cannot reason by languages ib[idem], p.20; can deliberate and will p.28.  B[rutes] distinguished by desire of knowledge p. 26; and by admiration of novelty p. 26.  N. B. He [Hobbes] seems right in seeing that the pleasure is peculiar [to man]; the sense of novelty not.

N. B. See Fleming [(1857)] on Laughter [:laughter “has been thought peculiar to man, as that which distinguishes him from the inferior animals” (p. 283).]

N. B. For Self-consciousness see Ferrier: Institutes [of Metaphysic], pp. 27 1-272 [:“If the inferior animals have no cognisance of themselves - and there is good reason to believe they have none, although no opinion is here offered on this point -, in that case, with all their senses, they are mere incarnate absurdities, gazing upon unredeemed contradiction.”]

B[rutes] Have Memory but no art of induction: no experience; Aristotle, quoted by Lewes

[(1867), p. 293.]

(See Descartes Med [itation de Prima Philosophia], II, [:“Quid fuit in prima perceptione distinctum? Quid quod non a quovis animali haberi posse videretur?  At vero… non possum sine humana mente percipere”])

Expectation as opposed to objective a priori necessity allowed them, Kant [Kritik den Pr[aktischen] Vern[unft] Vorr[ede] [Leipzig,18381, p. 116.” Marshall Papers, large brown box, V.

35. Ferrier (1856), p. 74.

36. Ferrier (1838-1839); in Ferrier (1866), pp. 85-86.

37. Sidgwick Papers.

38. Ferrier (1838-1839), in Ferrier (1866), p. 199.

39. Ferrier(1856),p.79.

40. Ferrier (1866), vol. I, p. 487.

41. Mansel (1855); in Mansel (1873), p. 151.

42. Grote (1865-1900), vol. 1, p. 70.

43. According to Mozley, Sidgwick himself “looked on it (Ferrier’s first proposition] with some respect” (Sidgwick Papers, c.104-65.9).

44. Grote (1865-1900), vol. 1, p. XXVI.

45. Stewart (1810), essay on Hartley; Hamilton (1860-1862), vol. 1, p. 37.


46. Grote (1865-1900), vol. 1, p. X.

47. See below, “Ferrier’s Proposition One,” p. 105 and note 6.

48. Grote (1867), p. 374.  This long passage was transcribed by Marshall (Marshall Papers, large brown box, V).

49. See below, p. 106.  For similar expressions see Marshall (1961), appendix C, note on Mill and Comte and Marshall (1975), vol. I, p. 98.

50. In his letter of 24.3.1908 to J. B. Clark, Marshall writes: “only one thing irritates me: the suggestion that I try to ‘compromise between’ or ‘reconcile’ divergent schools of thought.  Such work seems to me trumpery.  Truth is the only thing worth having; not peace.  I have never compromised on any doctrine of any kind.”  Marshall (1925), p. 418.

51. See, for example, Sidgwick (1874), ch. XI.

52. See below, p. 96 and note 6.  It may be noticed here that in his reply to the critiques on “Ferrier’s Proposition One” the difference between what we call objective (red-blue) and subjective (pain-pleasure) properties of mental phenomena is reduced to a difference in the degree of intersubjective agreement on them.

53. See below, “Ferrier’s Proposition One,” p. 109.

54. See below, p. 109.

55. See below, p. 109.

56. See Young.

57. Morell, p. 100.

58. Carpenter (1874), p. 61.

59. See Carpenter (1852).  Carpenter’s description of the nervous system was followed almost exactly by Morell.

60. Maudsley, p. 89.

61. Ibidem,p. 117.

62. Cf., for example, Clifford (l874b), in (1886), p. 252.

63. This opinion had been commonly upheld in previous centuries, when the cerebellum was seen as the seat of involuntary and instinctive movements, like respiration and heartbeat (cf., for example, the discussion of Willis, Boerhaave and Whytt in Fearing).  The cerebellum was also considered to be the sensorium commune, that is, the terminal seat of the sensory nerves, its function being that of regulating the simplest organic answers and sending the messages up to the intellect, if necessary.  Cuvier’s analogous assumption was quoted by Stewart in his third book (1792-1827).

64. Quain’s Anatomy, quoted in Bain (1864), pp. 25-26.

65. See below, p. 77.

66. The concept had been introduced by David Hartley in the eighteenth century.

67. Carpenter (1875), p. 22.

68. See Bain (1865), p. 437 and Spencer (1855) passim.  For Marshall’s application of the concept to industrial organization, see his (1961), book IV, chapter IX and his (1919).  Cf. also Becattini (1987).

69. The difficulty of explaining these automatic processes from the point of view of the Scottish philosophy is acknowledged by Marshall when he asks himself what is the value of self-consciousness “in unconscious mental modifications or in actions which we remember to have performed while at the time unconscious of them” (Marshall Papers, large brown box, V).

Hamilton discussed the problem of unconscious mental modifications in his lecture XVIII (1860) where the opposing ideas of Stewart, who denied their existence, and Hartley, who maintained it, are also taken into consideration.  Hamilton’s position is intermediate: he admits cases in which we are conscious of the process, of the succession of modifications, but not of any single one (as when we read mechanically while our attention is diverted to other thoughts).


70. See Bain (1875), pp. 324 and 347 where the concept of “trial and error” is introduced.  See also Bain (1865), pp. 315 and 338.

71. See below,”Ye Machine,”p. 117

72. Cf. also the following sentence: “Contrivance in connexion with instinct.  As by bees in anomalous[?] hive.  How far connected with the fact that contrivance of this kind may be due to fortuitous association.” Marshall Papers, large brown box, V.

73. The copy is now in the Library of the Department of Philosophy, Cambridge.  This annotation proves that the paper had already been written by the time Marshall read this part of the book, published in 1870; at the same time it gives evidence that the problems dealt with in it were still present in his mind and related to Spencer’s philosophy.

74. See p. 124 and note 22.

75. Spencer (1855), pp. 612-614.

76. See below, p. 120.

77. Spencer (1855), p. 566; Bain (1865), p. 419 and appendix C.

78. Clifford (1868); in Clifford, (1886).

79. “ the crystallization of a race”, “it is not right to be proper”; ibidem; p. 71.  On the importance of general education see Marshall (1961), vol. I, pp. 206-208, 258-259, and 572-573.  See also his paper on American industry in Marshall (1975), voL II; in particular, pp. 360-361.

80. See Clifford (1874b); in Clifford (1886), pp.263-264.  This article, like Carpenter(l875) and many more which were to follow, especially in the recently founded review Mind, debated the question “Is man an automaton?” which became prominent in England during the l870s, triggered off by Huxley (1874).  Marshall’s paper anticipates some themes of this debate.

81. In a comment on Grote (1870), Marshall wrote: “We are not concerned with freedom further than that its presence (or rather the presence of what is meant by it) is one of the causes of the complexity of the correspondences in the working out of which consists moral evolution.” (The annotated copy of Grote’s book is in the Marshall Library).

82. Marshall Papers, large brown box, V. Quoted by Whitaker in Marshall (1975), vol. I, p.6.

83. Marshall Papers, box V, 1(b).

84. Marshall (1961), pp. 30-31.

85. Clifford (1874b) in 1886, pp. 247-248.

86. Ibidem, p. 265. Marshall continued to be influenced by his old friend even after Clifford left Cambridge, in 1871.  In his conversation with Ralph Waldo Emerson, which took place in June 1875, Marshall spoke of Clifford as a man of ‘great literary power” and “as a representative of the modern generation about continuity,” a concept which was new to Emerson, “in its modern use.”  Marshall however explained to the philosopher “why Clifford’s view about immortality, etc. might be put aside,” perhaps because he was not yet convinced or because he did not want to shock his interlocutor (Marshall Papers, box 6, I, “Sketches of characters”).

87. J. M. Keynes, in Pigou (ed), p. 64.

88. Moreover Spencer’s philosophical Realism was a kind of common-sense dualism, in no way reducible to Materialism.  In First Principles (1867) he wrote that the distinction between “self” and “not-self’ “preceds all reasoning,” while “analysis” can only “justify the assertion of its existence” (p. 156).  This certainly struck the right chord because Marshall, still faithful to Ferrier’s conception of the Self, annotates: “He does not evade Ferrier’s position but, as supplementing it, and showing how the idea of the ego becomes developed, it is very complete.”  Marshall’s annotated copy of Spencer (1867) is in the Marshall Library.

89. Marshall was interested in this hereditary transmission and soon attracted by its applicability to society: “Do watchmakers acquire a habit of soft breathing so as not to disturb the steadiness of their fingers; particularly in cases in which many generations have been watchmakers?” (Marshall Papers, large brown box, V).


90. Lewes (1867) criticized Condillac for his failure to see that senses and intellect, sensations and ideas, correspond to different nervous structures.  Maudsley wrote that “the mind is not like a sheet of white paper which receives just what is written upon it, nor like a mirror which simply reflects more or less faithfully every object, but it implies a plastic power ministering to a complex process of organization, in which what is suitable to development is assimilated, what is unsuitable is rejected” (p. 92)  He also maintained that “our mental life is not a copy but an idealization of nature” (p. 187).

91. Spencer (1855), p. 580.

92. Ibidem.

93. Ibidem, p. 578.

94. The Spencerian solution was also accepted by Clifford. See (1874a); in Clifford (1886), pp. 195-199.

95. Marshall Papers, large brown box, V.

96. Spencer (1867), pp. 127-128.

97. Spencer (1855), p. 583.

98. See below, “The Duty of the Logician,” p. 135.

99. Ban (1864), p. 637. This passage was taken by Marshall as an instance of the application of the “Law of Parcimony,” in accordance with Mill (1865) (p. 245): “Mr. Bain’s doctrine [of space], being as consistent with the admitted facts of the case as Sir W. Hamilton’s, has a good claim, on his own [Hamilton’s] Law of Parcimony, to be preferred to it” (quoted in Marshall Papers, large brown box, V).

100. Compared to Mansel’s, Whewell’s Kantism laid much more stress on the necessary than on the relative character of scientific truths, more on the powers than on the limitations of human reason.  The fact that Marshall preferred the Oxford to the Cambridge version of Kantism is itself a sign of his own inclinations.

101. See pp. 136 and 139.

102. See below, p. 134.

103. It has not been possible to state whether there is any relation between the paper and the fact that in 1872 Marshall was authorized by the Senate to borrow a Greek manuscript containing comments on Euclid’s book V. (See Cambridge University Reporter, 30.X. 1872, p. 46.)

104. Helmholtz (1870), p. 130, and (1977), p. 18.

105. Clifford introduced the geometry of Lobatchewskij to English mathematicians in 1870, while A. Cayley, Cambridge professor of mathematics since 1863, and his friend J. Plücker had already published articles on non-Euclidean spaces. (See Richards and Boyer, ch. 24).

106. Marshall Papers (see above, note 86).  Marshall was disappointed to see that the man whom he had found described as “the greatest living Transcendentalist” was only able to answer that “Kant’s argument was a trumpery one, and it is fairly matched by a trumpery answer.”  Marshall had expected from him “at least some sympathy with Kant’s difficulties.”  For Jevons’s opposite attitude toward Helmholtz’s epistemology see his article on Nature and Helmholtz (1872).

107. The main opinion, however, shared by Todhunter himself, was that Simson’s English standard translation of Euclid should still be used as University textbook without any substantial changes.  A real controversy erupted only in 1871 in the pages of the Cambridge University Reporter. (See, for example, Levett and MacCarthy, and Taylor).

108. See Stephen Smith’s Introduction in Clifford (1882), p. XXXVII.

109. Mansel (1866a), p. 47.

110. Spencer (1870-1872), pp. 61-62.  Spencer refers the reader to J. Hughlings Jackson (1867), who later supported Spencer’s idea of the functions of the cerebellum.  See Jackson (1873-1875); in Jackson, (1958), pp. 62, 76.

111. Ibidem, p.556.


112. See below, “Ye Machine,” p. 130, note 1.  On the two Circuits see Ralfaelli (1991).

113. The term is in Spencer (1855), p. 613.  Bain’s “ideal actions” have a different meaning: they are more like dreams and fantasies, a kind of substitute for practical actions in situations which do not leave any possibility of effective behaviour.

114. Marshall transcribes the following passage from Spencer (1855): “As every additional part of a mechanical apparatus entails a loss of force, so does every syllogism entail a loss of certainty.  As no machine can produce an equivalent to the moving power so no argument can establish a conclusion equally certain with that primary knowledge on which all argument is based.” Old edition, p. 61. (Marshall Papers, Large Brown Box, V).

115. The speed of nervous transmission had been studied and measured by Donders, Helmholtz, Du Bois-Reymond and others.

116. Marshall’s “tightening” of the bands connecting the Machine’s wheels is the mechanical equivalent of Spencer’s hydraulic metaphor (see above, p. 69 and below, p. 116).  For an analogous view of the physical connection between psychical states see Clifford (l874b), in Clifford (1886), p. 251.  Cf. also Spencer (1855), p. 529.

117. See “Ye Machine,” p. 122.

118. Marshall(196l),pp. 119-120.

119. Ibidem, pp. 220-236, 580-583.

120. Ibidem, pp. 560-562, 570-573.

121. The limited correlation of the efficiency of a worker to his contribution to the aggregate value of production..., in Marshall Papers, box VI, 13, pp. 121, 127.

122. Marshall (1961), p. 601.

123. The limited correlation..., p. 121.

124. Loasby (1978) rightly emphasizes that “in all Marshall’s work, equilibrium rests firmly on expectations, and expectations derive from experience - which accumulates over time.”

125. “Each man’s actions are influenced by his special opportunities and resources, as well as by his temperament and his associations” (Marshall (1961), pp. 355-356).  This also supports Whitaker’s view that Marshall’s “early dabbling in psychology inhibited him from early formulation of a narrowly and naively utilitarian calculus of individual decision” (Marshall (1975), vol. I, p. 9).

126. Marshall (1961), pp. 364-366.

127. Marshall (1975), vol.1, pp. 119-164.

128. Thornton (1869), pp. 58-foll.; (1870), pp. 76-foll.

129. Thornton (1870), p. 79.

130. Thornton (1869), p. 62.  On the difference between the two editions, see Raffaelli, (1987).

131. Marshall (1975), vol. 1, p. 133.

132 For the reasons here stated, I agree with Bharadwaj’s opinion that the problem of value is central in Marshall’s early economic writings.  I do not go along with her on the point of Marshall’s later refusal of the asymmetry between supply and demand: the privileged position accorded to supply is a permanent element of Marshallian economics.  As Dardi is opposed to Bharadwaj on both points, I concur with him only on the second.

133. ‘Lectures on Socialism and the function of Government,” 1886, in Marshall Papers, Box V, 1(e).

134. See Young (1970) on Bain (1861).

135. Smiles (1860) and (1864).  For a discussion of the concept of character in Victorian England, see Collini, (1985).

136. See “Ye Machine,” p. 130.  The evolutionary value of sympathy was acknowledged by Darwin, Bain, Spencer and many others.

137. Marshall (1961), p. 243.

138. Ibidem.


139. Spencer’s similar conception can be best seen in his (1879).

140. Marshall (1975), vol. II, p. 377.

141. See Pollock’s Introduction in Clifford (1886), p. 25.

142. His comments on J. Grote (1870) are almost always favorable to Mill: “Grote has set up the dummy Utilitarianism in order to knock it down” (p. 251); “he [Grotel misunderstands his [Mill’s] position” (p. 96); “he [Grotel entirely misrepresents Mill” (p. 131).  (Annotated copy in the Marshall Library).

143. M. Paley Marshall, pp. 18-19.

144. Marshall (1961), vol. I, p. 17; vol. II, pp. 136-137.

145. Collini, Winch & Burrow oppose evolutionary ethics to Utilitarianism more than I do. On this point see also Sidgwick (1902) on Spencer.

146. The necessary distinction between “ought” and “is” was one of Grote’s favourite themes (1870).  Marshall seems to accept it in his annotated copy of the book.  Later he insists on this distinction in two articles (1874a and b).  Mill (1863) laid himself open to criticism for his failure to acknowledge this distinction, particularly in chapter IV.