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149. Tungus Mentality In General

In Section 1 of Chapter VIII of my study Social Organization of the Northern Tungus I have given a general characteristic of the Tungus from the point of view of their mentality and psychology. I needed this characteristic as an introduction to a description of some social customs; but the chief material used for it was that expounded in the present work. Since the facts are now given, I need not repeat what I formulated there as a general characteristic, and I shall merely refer to the above indicated section. However, some particular points ought now to be stressed.

Reviewing the first chapters of Part One, one may see that the Tungus are very good observers and their method of drawing inferences is not lacking any element of logic, as compared with that of Europeans. More than this, when the inference may have a vital importance, the Tungus become more careful — they always check up their inferences and remodel them, when needed — than the Europeans are with regard to subjects of not vital (or seemingly of a not vital) importance [710]. The question as to how quick the Tungus are in arriving at sound and correctly made conclusions and how long they may remain in a state of trying their inferences, naturally depends on the frequency of opportunity of observation, the importance of the inference, and perhaps the natural state of the Tungus mental process and their reactions on it. When the inference is made and can successfully work, it has all chance of being, at least for a time, stabilized as a fixed acquisition of knowledge, regardless of whether it is wrong or correct from our point of view. If the inference comes into a conflict with newly observed facts and if the inference has a vital importance, it will be immediately modified. The Tungus very often remain critical as to their inferences and they are not afraid to say: «I do not know», when they are not certain. It is thus natural that facts of vital importance, gathered in great numbers, i.e. practically facts directly relating to the sources of victuals and maintenance of life, such as animals, plants, topography, etc., guarantee the correctness of the inference. In fact, the Tungus ideas about these facts are more reliable than some «scientific» inferences, say, of the last century. Indeed, there may be no question that most of these inferences, in so far as the process of their establishment is concerned, are arrived at by the Tungus through the same mental process: observation —>hypothetical generalization—>trial of this generalization—> fixation of the generalization.

It may be pointed out that some Tungus have even come to the idea of classification of animals according to «clans» (vide supra) which presumes a common origin of some animals, i.e. a further step of an analytical generalization. Such an idea ought to be regarded as scientific conception not implied by the practical interest of an immediate satisfaction of need. This fact alone may suffice for demonstrating the existence of «science» as a product of inquisitiveness and unrestricted motion in the process termed thinking.

However, I have shown several instances of this kind, among which I wish to draw attention to the hypothesis of micro-organisms, which is particularly interesting because of its being recognized to be a hypothesis and because we can quite clearly see the process of its creation. The Tungus solve the problem of infection by going from the analysis of facts. The fact of deep wounds in which larvae of insects and worms may appear, seen by the eye, leads them to the idea that, since worms and insects originate from germs, which are different, there may be other «germs» which do not grow big and which cause inflammations, swelling, secretions and the physiological reaction of fever. In the general setting the analysis and the way of approaching the problem are correct. The next step is to find the specific microorganisms which are responsible for different kinds of diseases. That the micro-organisms are different is known to the Tungus: they give instances of different insects, worms and even seminal liquid which contains «germs». The point of importance is a really ingenious hypothesis: there are small organisms which do not grow and thus cannot be seen. Moreover, the whole construction is regarded by the Tungus as a hypothesis. I do not see any difference between this Tungus construction and, for instance, the modern approach to particular problems such as cancer, which by some investigators was hypothetically believed to be caused by a micro-organism, the latter remaining undiscovered because of an inadequate technique.

This case is demonstrative of the same mental character of the Tungus: a realistic approach to a new problem by gathering of facts, by analysis, and by inferences temporarily accepted as a hypothesis. However, in this case a utilitarian stimulus may be suspected, namely, the treatment of certain diseases.

In a great number of Tungus hypotheses shown in Part Two we find all stages of the formation of stable theories, accepted as established truths and beginning with sceptically adopted suppositions liable to immediate rejection, should contradictory facts be disclosed. Indeed, there are some hypotheses which have not yet received general recognition, even hypotheses just formed by individuals as suppositions, and there are hypotheses generally recognized. Some of the hypotheses are merely the result of a further logical reasoning about facts known and analyzed; some other hypotheses have a conscious stimulus in the wish to find a practical solution of a faced problem; finally, there are hypotheses the exactness of which is not cognized and which are not even observed to have been formed. Again, in this respect no difference between the European complex and the Tungus complex can be seen. However, in so far as quantity and spheres of mental work are concerned, there are very essential differences. In fact, for instance, a great number of facts created by the existence of new relations between the European ethnical units and their milieus are totally lacking as subjects of the Tungus thinking process; the existence of a comparatively rudimentary technical culture eliminates a great number of problems too; on the other hand, problems of primary milieu, in connection with the hunting complex of the Tungus, are better developed in the Tungus complex; perhaps, the same may be said in reference to the complex connected with shamanism, as a method of regulation of psychic equilibrium. Yet, the total amount of knowledge of the Tungus is naturally much smaller than that of the European groups.

I have already pointed out that the distribution of knowledge among the Tungus is much more even, than it is e.g. among the groups living in big cities and farmers confined to a limited area and to a limited sphere of interests. As a matter of fact, the Tungus enters into contact with a much wider milieu than any citizen or any farmer. In the first group, consisting chiefly of workmen of big factories, the mental interest is naturally reduced to the necessary minimum of what is seen in the factory and in the poor quarters in which the workmen live, and this lasts, without any essential change, during their whole life and even for generations. The position of a farmer is slightly better, for he still deals with nature and must know, at least automatically, the conditions of the primary milieu. However, being confined to a limited area, the farmer greatly narrows his interest and knowledge. The Tungus, who lives on hunting, has to come in contact with all elements of the primary milieu of a large area sometimes covering millions of square kilometers. He must also come in contact with other ethnical groups, his neighbours-Tungus and even non-Tungus groups. He runs much more risk than the citizens and farmers. This produces a beneficial effect upon the selection and acts as an imperative stimulus for individual adaptation. Indeed in so far as the mass of the population is concerned, this is so, but living in large groups, which possess complex forms of technical and social adaptation, greatly facilitates the creation of a selected group of individuals whose function is based upon the division of work [711]. However, even this «thinking apparatus» of the ethnical unit is affected by the same conditions of division of work and the still deeper process of biological selection. Indeed, one may treat ethnical units as a whole and refer to the group of selected «thinking apparatus», as though it were itself an «ethnical unit»; but that would not give an idea as to the mental state of the mass of the population. For all these reasons the individual Tungus, in the poorness of his technical culture, sometimes with periods of hardship and even starvation, which occur after epizootics, is much more broad-minded and much better adapted for acquiring new knowledge; he is in a much lesser degree affected by an obstinate opposition to an appeal to the reason and logic, than the farmers of «civilized nations» and especially the low working classes of the cities, who in a great number of cases must be watched and compelled by special organs of the authority to function as useful and sufficiently productive members of the units to which they belong.

I have touched (vide SONT, p. 310), with a great caution, upon the problem of «inherited» conditions of mental ability of the Tungus. Apparently the Tungus themselves are conscious of the fact that these conditions are, at least partly, inherited. Indeed, it is impossible to abstract different aspects of the Tungus psychomental complex, namely, the factor of selection, that of favourable milieus, and automatic transmission of physical conditions by the mechanism of inheritance, as well as the always possible mutations and new combinations of inherited elements, for they are only different aspects of the same complex phenomenon — the existing psychomental complex.

710. Cf. Aspects, pp. 176 et seq. In which I demonstrate a case when the method of Europeans is much inferior to that of the Tungus.

711. There seems to be no way out of this situation, which is a consequence of the division of work and of the agglomeration of people on limited spaces of land. This is brought about by two factors: firstly, by an increase of the population which cannot be stopped by the ethnical unit without the risk of being absorbed by its neighbours (in which case the unit would perish and cease to play it part in the interethnical equilibrium); secondly, by an increase of the production per working individual, which is also caused by the growth of the population and the interethnical pressure. This condition is realized by most of thinking men, but it cannot be helped, for it exceeds the power of individual ethnical units. The minds of sensitive people may be allayed by apparently practical solutions, such as the effort of philanthropists to raise the intellectual standard of the population; as a socialistic dream of increasing productivity by means of a further mechanization of the industry and thereby allowing free hours for the intellectual development of the masses. However, the philanthropic work and an «artificial» education during the hours of leisure will not stimulate the yearning for knowledge which in the mass of the population is always created by the conditions of life, more precisely by the struggle for existence. Another very unfavourable condition is the decrease of natality and accordingly a reduction of the natural selection, both of which combined affect populations, chiefly in the sense of giving more chance to the weaker and the more specialized part, while the upper layer, as soon as selected from the brutalized part of the population, shows a further decrease of power of self-reproduction, and thus this mechanism acts like a continuous pumping. The ethnical units which try to interfere with this process are very likely to spend their energy without any effect and to make way for other ethnical units which do not waste their energy. There remains another dream — that of reaching an agreement among all strong units, in order to carry out a definite policy. But this is nothing more than a manifestation of a leading ethnos under the conditions of a varying interethnical milieu, which, as a practical way, is in a sharp conflict with the process of variations generally observed. As far as I can see, this is a process which inevitably leads to the collapse of the present species of man and perhaps to the creation of new biological species of man — but to change the course of things is impossible. Density of population and, as a form of adaptation, its settling on a very limited territory cannot be regulated for all mankind. The immediate consequence thereof is the reduction of the biological functions, as is typical of sedentary animals.

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