54 The Germs of Srewhon
unconscious of these operations because it has done them
a very large number of times already. A man may do a
thing by a fluke once, but to say that a foetus can perform
so difficult an operation as the growth of a pair of eyes put
of pure protoplasm without knowing how to do it, and with-
out ever having done it before, is to contradict all human
experience. Ipso facto that it does it, it knows how to do it,
and ipso facto that it knows how to do it, it has done it before.
Its unconsciousness (or speedy loss of memory) is simply the
result of over-knowledge, not of under-knowledge. It knows
so well and has done it so often that its power of self-analysis
is gone. If it knew what it was doing, or was conscious of
its own act in oxidising its blood after birth, I should suspect
that it had not done it so often before; as it is I am confident
that it must have done it more often—much more often—than
any act which we perform consciously during our whole lives.
4. When, then, did it do it ? Clearly when last it was
an impregnate ovum or some still lower form of life which
resulted in that impregnate ovum.
5. How is it, then, that it has not gained perceptible
experience ? Simply because a single repetition makes little
or no difference; but go back 20,000 repetitions and you will
find that it has gained in experience and modified its per-
formance very materially.
6. But how about the identity ? What is identity ?
Identity of matter ? Surely no. There is no identity of
matter between me as I now am, and me as an impregnate
ovum. Continuity of existence ? Then there is . identity
between me as an impregnate ovum and my father and
mother as impregnate ova. Drop out my father's and
mother's lives between the dates of their being impregnate
ova and the moment when I became an impregnate ovum.
See the ova only and consider the second ovum as the first
two ova's means not of reproducing themselves but of con-
tinuing themselves—repeating themselves—the intermediate
lives being nothing but, as it were, a long potato shoot from
one eye to the place where it will grow its next tuber.
7. Given a single creature capable of reproducing itself
and it must go on reproducing itself for ever, for it would
not reproduce itself, unless it reproduced a creature that was
going to reproduce itself, and so on ad infinitum.