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Full text of "The child's conception of the world"

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International Library of Psychology 
Philosophy and Scientific Method 



The Child s Conception 
of the World 



The Child's Conception 
of the World 



Br 
JEAN PIAGET 

Doctor of Science, Director of -the Institut Rousseau, Professor 
at the University of Geneva, Author of "Language and Thought 
of the Child," and" Judgment and Reasoning in the Child" 



LONDON 

ROUTLEDGE & KEGAN PAUL LTD 

BROADWAY HOUSE: 68-74 CARTER LANE EC4V 5EL 






First Published in England \Q2g. 
Reprinted 1931, ig6o, 1964, ig6y and igyi 

Printed in Great Britain by 
Redwood Press Limited, Trowbridge & London 

ISBN o 7100 3068 I 



Translated by 
JOAN AND ANDREW TOMLINSON 



Students and former Students of the J. J. Rousseau 
Institute who collaborated in this work 

Mile A. Bodourian (Chap, ii, ix and x) 

Mile G. GuEX (Chap, i, iii, vii, viii and x) 

Mile R. Hebner (Chap, viii) 

Mile H. Krafft (Chap, i, iii, v, vii and ix) 

Mile E. Margairaz (Chap, ix and x) 

Mile S. Perret (Chap, i, iii, v and viii) 

Mme V. J. PiAGET (Chap, i, iii, vii and ix) 

Mile M. Rodrigo (Chap, iii and ix) 

Mile M. Rond (Chap, ix) 

Mile N. SwETLOVA (Chap, ii, ix and x) 

M. le Dr Versteeg (Chap, iii) 



1 "n^il^ 



CONTENTS 



PAGE 



Introduction. — Problems and Methods . . i 

§ I. Method of tests, pure observation and the clinical 
method, p. 2. — § 2. The five types of reaction revealed 
by clinical examination, p. 10.— § 3. Rules and criteria 
for the diagnosis of the preceding types of reaction, 
p. 18. — § 4. Rules for the interpretation of the results, 
P- 23. 

PART I.— REALISM 33 

Chapter I. — The Notion of Thought . . 37 

§ I. The first stage : thinking is with the mouth, p. 39. 
— § 2. Looking and seeing, p. 47. — § 3. The second and 
third stages : thinking is with the head, p. 49. — § 4. 
Words and things, p. 55. 

Chapter II. — Nominal Realism ... 61 

§ I. The origin of names, p. 63. — § 2. The place of 
names, p. 71. — § 3. The intrinsic value of names, p. 80. 
— § 4. Conclusions, p. 85. 

Chapter III. — Dreams 88 

§ I . The first stage : the dream comes from outside and 
remains external, p. 91. — § 2. The second stage : the 
dream arises in us ourselves, but is external to us, 
p. 106. — § 3. The third stage : the dream is internal 
and of internal origin, p. 117. — § 4. Conclusions, p. 119. 

Chapter IV. — Realism and the Origin of the 

Idea of Participation .... 123 

§ I. Realism and the consciousness of self, p. 124. — 
§ 2. Participation and magical practices, p. 131. — 
§ 3. The origins of participation and magic as mani- 
fested in the child, p. 150. — § 4. Corroborative proof : 
spontaneous magical ideas in the adult, p. 162. — § 5. 
Conclusion : logical and ontological egocentricity, 
p. 166. 

vii 



viii CONTENTS 



PART II.— ANIMISM 169 



171 



Chapter V. — Consciousness attributed to 
Things 

§ I. The first stage : all things are conscious, p. 174. 
— § 2. The second stage : things that can move are 
conscious, p. 179. — § 3. The third stage : things that 
can move of their own accord are conscious, p. 182. — 
§ 4. The fourth stage : consciousness is restricted to 
animals, p. 185. — § 5. Conclusions, p. 187. 



Chapter VI, — The Concept of " Life " . . 194 

§ I. The first stage : life is assimilated to activity in 
general, p. 196. — § 2. The second stage : life is assimi- 
lated to movement, p. 199. — § 3. The third and fourth 
stages : Ufe is assimilated to spontaneous movement, 
then later is restricted to animals and plants, p. 201. 
— § 4. Conclusion : the notion of " life," p. 204. 



Chapter VII. — The Origins of Child Animism, 

Moral Necessity and Physical Determinism 207 

§ I. The child's spontaneous animism, p. 207. — § 2. 
The sun and moon follow us, p. 213. — § 3. Physical 
determinism and moral necessity, p. 222. — § 4. Con- 
clusions. The significance of the questions on child 
animism, and the nature of " diffuse animism," p. 228. 
— § 5. Conclusions (continued) : the origins of child 
animism, p. 234. 



PART III.— ARTIFICIALISM . . . .253 

Chapter VIII. — The Origin of the Sun and 

Moon 256 

§ I. A primitive example of the first stage, p. 258. — 
§ 2. The first stage : the sun and moon are made 
artificially, p. 263. — § 3. The second and the third 
stages : the origin of the sun and moon is first partly, 
then completely, natural, p. 272. — § 4. The quarters 
of the moon, p. 280. 



CONTENTS ix 



Index of Names 



PACE 



Chapter IX. — Meteorology and the Origin of 
Water 285 

§ I. The sky, p. 287. — § 2. The cause and the nature 
of night, p. 291. — § 3. The origin of the clouds, p. 298. — 
§ 4. Thunder and lightning, p. 307. — § 5. The forma- 
tion of rain, p. 311. — § 6. The explanations of snow, 
ice and cold, p. 320. — § 7. Rivers, lakes and sea, the 
primitive origin of water, p. 326. 

Chapter X. — The Origin of Trees, Mountains 

AND OF the Earth 333 

§ I. The origin of wood and of plants, p. 334. — § 2. The 
origin of iron, glass, cloth, and of paper, p. 337. — § 3. 
The origin of stones and of earth, p. 339. — § 4. Origin 
of the mountains, p. 347. 

Chapter XI. — ^The Meaning and Origins of 
Child Artificialism 350 

§ I. The meaning of child artihciahsm, p. 350. — § 2. 
The relations of artificialism with the problem of the 
birth of babies, p. 360. — § 3. The stages of spontaneous 
artificiaUsm and lieir relation with the development 
of animism, p. 369. — § 4. The origins of artificialism, 
P- 376. — § 5. The origins of identification and the 
causes of the decUne of artificialism and animism, 
p. 384. 

Appendix. — Note on the Relations between 
BELIEF IN Efficacy and Magic, in connection 
with §§ 2 AND 3 OF Chapter IV . . . 389 



395 



General Index 396 



INTRODUCTION 
PROBLEMS AND METHODS 

The subject of this investigation — one of the most 
important but also one of the most difficult in child 
psychology — is as follows : What conceptions of the world 
does the child naturally form at the different stages of its 
development ? There are two essential standpoints from 
which the problem must be studied. Firstly, what is the 
modahty of child thought : in other words, what is the 
scheme of reahty which prompts this thought ? Does 
the child, in fact, believe, as we do, in a real world and 
does he distinguish the behef from the various fictions of 
play and of imagination ? To what extent does he dis- 
tinguish the external world from an internal or subjective 
world and what limits does he draw between his self and 
objective reality ? These are the questions which make up 
the first problem, the child's notion of reality. 

A second fundamental problem is bound up with that 
just stated ; namely the significance of explanations put 
forward by the child. What use does he make of the 
notions of cause and of law ? What is the nature of the 
causahty he accepts ? Explanation as exercised by 
savages or in the sciences has been studied, as also the 
various forms of philosophical explanation. Is the form 
of explanation presented by the child of a new type ? 
These and like questions form the second problem, the 
child's notion of causality. These two questions of what 
reahty and causahty mean to the child are the subject of 
this book and of its sequel.^ It is clear from the outset 
that these problems are distinct from those dealt with in 

^ La causaliU physique chez I' enfant. 
1 



2 CHILD'S CONCEPTION OF THE WORLD 

a previous work,^ There the problem was an analysis 
of the form and functioning of child thought ; here it is 
an analysis of its content. The. two questions though 
closely related are in their nature distinguishable. The 
form and functioning of thought are manifested every time 
the child comes into contact with other children or with 
an adult and constitute a form of social behaviour, 
observable from without. The content, on the contrary, 
may or may not be apparent and varies with the child 
and the things of which it is speaking. It is a system of 
intimate behefs and it requires a special technique to bring 
them to the Ught of day. Above all it is a system of 
mental tendencies and predilections of which the child 
himself has never been consciously aware and of which 
he never speaks. 

Hence it is not merely useful but essential, first to 
examine the methods to be employed in studying these 
beliefs. To judge of the logic of children it is often enough 
simply to talk with them or to observe them among them- 
selves. To arrive at their beliefs requires a special method 
which, it must be confessed outright, is not only difficult 
and tedious, but demands also an outlook, the fruit of at 
least one or two full years' training. Mental specialists, 
trained in clinical practice, will immediately appreciate 
the reason. In order to assess a child's statement at its 
true worth the most minute precautions are necessary. 
Some account of these precautions must now be given, 
since if the reader ignores them he is likely to falsify 
completely the meaning of the pages which follow and, 
moreover, to mismanage the experiments should he, as 
we hope, decide to check them by repeating them 
himself. 

§ I. Method of Tests, Pure Observation and the 
Clinical Method. — The first method that presents 
itself as a means of solving the given problem is 

^ J. Piaget, Studies m Child Logic : 

Vol. I. Language and Thought m the Child. Kegan Paul. 1926. 
Vol. II. Judgment and Reasoning in the Child. Kegan Paul. 1928. 



INTRODUCTION 3 

that of tests; that is to say, the method of posmg 
questions so arranged as to satisfy the two following 
requirements : first, that the question and the con- 
ditions in which it is submitted remain the same 
for each child, second that each answer be related to 
a scale or schedule which serves as a standard of com- 
parison both qualitative and quantitative. The advan- 
tages of this method are indisputable in diagnosing, 
children individually. For general psychology also 
the resulting statistics often provide useful information. 
But for our particular purpose the test method has two 
important defects. Firstly, it does not allow a sulBfiicient 
analysis of the results. When working under the stereo- 
typed conditions which the test method demands only 
rough results can be obtained, which, though interesting 
in practice, are too often useless as theory, owing to the 
lack of context. This, however, is of sUght importance, for 
it is obvious that with sufficient ingenuity, the tests can 
be so varied as to reveal all the components of a given 
psychological reaction. The essential failure of the test 
method in the researches with which we are concerned, 
is that it falsifies the natural mental inclination of the 
subject or at least risks so doing. For example, in trying 
to find out how a child conceives the movement of the 
sun and moon the question may be asked, " What makes 
the sun move ? " The child perhaps answers, " God 
makes it move," or " the wind blows it," etc. Such 
answers are not to be neglected, even if they be only 
the result of " romancing," that is of that peculiar tend- 
ency of children to invent when embarrassed by a given 
question. However, even had this test been apphed to 
children of all ages, no real advance would have been made, 
since it may weU be that a child would never put the 
question to itself in such a form or even that it would 
never have asked such a question at all. The child may 
quite possibly imagine the sun to be a Hving being moving 
of its own accord. In asking " what makes the sun move ? " 
the suggestion of an outside agent occurs at once, thus 



4 CHILD'S CONCEPTION OF THE WORLD 

provoking the creation of a mj^h. Or in asking the 
question " How does the sun move ? ' ' one may be suggesting 
the idea of " how " — perhaps also not previously present — 
thus stimulating fresh myths such as, " the sun moves by 
breathing," or " because of the heat," or " it rolls," etc. 
The only way to avoid such difficulties is to vary the 
questions, to make counter-suggestions, in short, to give 
up all idea of a fixed questionnaire. 

The same is true in mental pathology. A case of 
dementia prcecox may have a sufficient gleam of memory to 
state correctly who his father was, though habitually he 
beheves himself to be of illustrious parentage. But the real 
problem is to know how he frames the question to himself 
or if he frames it at all. The skill of the practitioner 
consists not in making him answer questions but in making 
him talk freely and thus encouraging the flow of his 
spontaneous tendencies instead of diverting it into the 
artificial channels of set question and answer. It consists 
n placing every symptom in its mental context rather 
than in abstracting it from its context. 

In short, the test method has its uses, but for the 
present problem it tends to falsify the perspective by 
diverting the child from his natural inclination. It tends 
to neglect the spontaneous interests and primitive re- 
actions of the child as well as other essential problems. 

The question of pure observation next arises. Obser- 
vation must be at once the starting point of all research 
dealing with child thought and also the final control on 
the experiments it has inspired. In the ease of the present 
research it is the observation of the spontaneous questions 
of children which furnishes data of the highest importance. 
The detailed study of the contents of these questions 
reveals the interests of children at different ages and 
reveals to us those questions which the child is revolving 
in its own mind and which might never have occurred to 
us, or which we should never have framed in such terms. 
Further, a study of the exact form of the questions in- 
dicates the child's imphcit solutions, for almost every 



INTRODUCTION 5 

question contains its solution in the manner in which it 
is asked. For example, when a child asks " who made the 
sun ? " it is clear he thinks of the sun as the product of 
an act of creation. Or again, when a child asks why there 
are two Mount Sal^ves, the big Sal^ve and the little 
Saleve, when there are not two Matterhoms, he evidently 
imagines mountains as arranged according to a plan which 
excludes all chance. 

We may thus state the first rule of our method. When 
a particular group of explanations by children is to be 
investigated, the questions we shall ask them will be 
determined in matter and in form, by the spontaneous 
questions actually asked by children of the same age or 
younger. It is also imf>ortant, before drawing conclusions 
from the results of an investigation, to seek corroboration 
in a study of the spontaneous questions of children. It 
can then be seen whether the notions ascribed to them 
do or do not correspond with the questions they them- 
selves ask and the manner in which they ask them. 

For example, we shall study later in this voliune the 
question of animism in children. We shall see that when 
questioned as to whether the sun, etc., is alive, knows, 
feels, etc., children at a certain age reply in the affirmative. 
But is this a spontaneous notion or is it a reply suggested 
directly or indirectly by the question ? To solve this we 
must search for an indication among collections of 
children's questions, where we shall find that a certain 
child of six and a half, Del (see Language and Thought, 
Chapter I, §8), on seeing a ball rolling in the direction of 
the observer asked spontaneously, " Does it know you're 
there ? " We also see that Del asked a great number of 
questions in order to find out whether an object, such as 
a leaf, was inanimate or ahve. Further, we see that Del, 
in answer to the statement that dead leaves are certainly 
dead, retorted " but they move with the wind ! " [ibid., 
§8). Thus some children by the form of their questions 
show that they connect life with movement. These facts 
show that an interrogatory on animism, undertaken in 



6 CHILD'S CONCEPTION OF THE WORLD 

such a way (for example by asking in the manner of Del 
if a moving object " knows " that it is moving), is not 
artificial and that the connection between life and move- 
ment corresponds to something spontaneous in the child. 

But if the necessity for direct observation is thus made 
clear its drawbacks are also obvious. The method of pure 
observation is not only tedious and seemingly unable to 
guarantee the quaUty of the results, except at the expense 
of their quantity (it is, in fact, impossible to observe a 
large number of children under similar conditions), but 
also it seems to contain certain systematic defects the two 
chief of which are as follows. 

In the first place, the child's intellectual egocentricity 
constitutes a serious obstacle to knowing him by pure 
observation unaided by questions. We have, in fact, 
attempted to show elsewhere {Language and Thought, 
Chapters I-II) that the child neither spontaneously seeks nor 
is able to communicate the whole of his thought. Further, 
if in the society of other children, the conversation may 
be associated with his immediate activity or play, thus 
giving no clue to that essential fragment of his thought 
which is not concerned with action and which develops 
by being in touch with vaiious adult activities or with 
nature. In this case conceptions of the world and of 
ph5r^cal causality wiU appear not to interest him at all. 
Or again, if in the society of adults, he may ask questions 
interminably but without ever seeking explanations of his 
own. These he withholds at first because he feels they 
must be known to every one, then, later, from shame, from 
fear of being wrong and from fear of disillusion. He is 
silent about them especially because he regards these 
explanations, being his own, as not only the most natural 
but also as the only ones possible. In short, even that 
which could be explained in words, ordinarily remains 
imphcit, simply because the child's thought is not so 
socialised as our own. But alongside of those thoughts 
which can be expressed, at least internally, how many 
inexpressible thoughts must remain unknown so long as 



INTRODUCTION 7 

we restrict ourselves to observing the child without 
talking to him ? By inexpressible thoughts are meant 
tendencies of mind, syncretic schemas, both visual and 
motor, in short, all those primitive associations whose 
existence one feels directly one starts talking with a child. 
These primitive associations are of the greatest importance, 
and to bring them to hght special methods must be 
employed. 

The second drawback to the method of pure observation 
is the difficulty of distinguishing a child's play from his 
behefs. Take the example of a child, who, imagining 
himself to be alone, says to the roller : " Have you 
flattened out all those big stones ? " Is he playing or does 
he really personify the machine ? In a particular case 
it is impossible to judge with conviction. Pure obser- 
vation is inadequate for distinguishing belief from 
romancing. The only valid criteria, as we shall see later, 
are based on multiplicity of results and on the comparison 
of individual reactions. 

It is therefore essential to go beyond the method of 
pure observation and without faUing into the pitfalls of 
the test method, to take full advantage of what may be 
gained from experiment. With this in view we shall use a 
third method which claims to unite what is most expedient 
in the methods of test and of direct observation, whilst 
avoiding their respective disadvantages : this is the 
method of clinical examination, used by psychiatrists as 
a means of diagnosis. For example, one may for months 
examine certain cases of parancea without once seeing the 
idea of grandeur assert itself, though the impression of it 
is behind every unusual reaction. Moreover, though there 
are not differentiated tests for every type of morbid 
condition, yet the practitioner is able both to talk freely 
with the patient whilst watching carefully for evidences 
of morbid obsession, and furthermore to lead him gently 
towards the critical zones (birth, race, fortune, military 
rank or pohtical standing, mystic life, etc.) naturally 
without knowing exactly where the obsession may suddenly 



8 CHILD'S CONCEPTION OF THE WORLD 

crop up, but constantly maintaining the conversation on 
fertile soil. The clinical examination is thus exi)erimental 
in the sense that the practitioner sets himself a problem, 
makes h5rpotheses, adapts the conditions to them and 
finally controls each hypothesis by testing it against the 
reactions he stimulates in conversation. But the clinical 
examination is also dependent on direct observation, in 
the sense that the good practitioner lets himself be led, 
though always in control, and takes account of the whole 
of the mental context, instead of being the victim of 
" systematic error " as so often happens to the pure 
experimenter. 

Since the clinical method has rendered such important 
service in a domain where formerly all was disorder and 
confusion, child psychology would make a great mistake 
to neglect it. There is in fact no reason, ^ priori, why 
children should not be questioned on those points where 
pure observation leaves the research in doubt. The 
recognition by the psj^chologist of mythomania and of 
suggestibihty in the child, and of the fallacies these 
bring in their train, affords no ground why he should not 
question the child for the purpose of determining precisely, 
by cHnical examination, the exact part which suggestion 
and romancing play in the answers. 

It is unnecessary to quote examples here, since the 
following work is principally a collection of clinical 
observations. It is true that in the nature of things we 
shall be compelled to schematise our cases, not by sum- 
marising them (which would be to misrepresent them), 
but by taking from reports of conversation only those 
passages which have a direct interest. From many pages 
of notes taken in every case we shall thus record only a 
few lines. It has also not been thought useful to give here 
complete examples of examinations, since the cUnical 
method can only be learned by long practice. Moreover, 
it is our opinion that in child psychology as in patho- 
logical psychology, at least a year of daily practice is 
necessary before passing beyond the inevitable fumbling 



INTRODUCTION 9 

stage of the beginner. It is so hard not to talk too much 
when questioning a child, especially for a pedagogue ! It 
is so hard not to be suggestive ! And above all, it is so 
hard to find the middle course between systematisation due 
to preconceived ideas and incoherence due to the absence 
of any directing hypothesis ! The good experimenter 
must, in fact, unite two often incompatible quahties ; he 
must know how to observe, that is to say, to let the child 
talk freely, without ever checking or side-tracking his 
utterance, and at the same time he must constantly be 
alert for something definitive, at every moment he must 
have some working hypothesis, some theory, true or false, 
which he is seeking to check. To appreciate the real 
difi&culty of the chnical method one must have taught it. 
When students begin they either suggest to the child all 
they hope to find, or they suggest nothing at all, because 
they are not on the look-out for anything, in which case, 
to be sure, they will never find anything. 

In short, it is no simple task, and the material it yields 
needs subjecting to the strictest criticism. The psycho- 
logist must in fact make up for the uncertainties in the 
method of interrogation by sharpening the subtleties of 
his interpretation. But, here again, the beginner is 
threatened by two opposing dangers, those of attributing 
either its maximum or its minimum value to everything 
the child says. The greatest enemies of the clinical 
method are those who unduly simplify the results of an 
interrogatory, those who either accept every answer the 
child makes as pure gold or those on the other hand who 
class all as dross. The first, naturally, are the more 
dangerous, but both fall into the same error, that is, of 
supposing that everything a child may say, during a 
quarter, half or three-quarters of an hour of conversation, 
hes on the same psychological level — that of considered 
belief, for example, or of romancing, etc. 

The essence of the critical method is, on the contrary, 
to separate the wheat from the tares and to keep every 
answer in its mental context. For the context may be 



10 CHILD'S CONCEPTION OF THE WORLD 

one of reflection or of spontaneous belief, of play or of 
prattle, of effort and interest or of fatigue ; and above 
all there are certain subjects who inspire confidence right 
from the beginning, who can be seen to reflect and consider, 
and there are others of whom one feels equally certain 
that they pay no heed to the questions and only talk 
rubbish in their replies. 

It is impossible to state here the precise rules for the 
diagnosis of these individual reactions, this must be the 
result of practice. But to render more intelligible the way 
in which the following observations were chosen from 
amongst all those at our disposal (for this volume more than 
600 observations were collected by the author and on many 
special points our collaborators further examined a large 
number of subjects), we shall attempt to classify in certain 
broad categories the various possible types of answer. As 
these types are of very unequal value it is important to 
bear in mind a clear outhne of this classification, so as to 
be able to assign due value to the interpretations. 

§ 2. The Five Types of Reaction Revealed by 
Clinical Examination. — When the child appears un- 
interested in the question and is not stimulated to 
any effort of adaptation, it repHes at random and 
whatever first comes into its head, without so much 
as trying to find fun in it or to invent an answer. 
We shall speak of this reaction as the answer at random 
(called by Binet and Simon " le n importequisme "). When 
the child, without further reflection, leplies to the question 
by inventing an answer in which he does not really believe, 
or in which he beheves merely by force of saying it, we 
shall speak of romancing. When the child makes an effort 
to reply to the question but either the question is suggestive 
or the child is simply trying to satisfy the examiner 
without attempting to think for himself, we shall use the 
term suggested conviction. We shall include perseveration 
under this head when it is the result of the questions being 
in a suggestive series. In other cases perseveration must be 
regarded as a form of the " answer at random." When 



INTRODUCTION ii 

the child repUes after reflection, drawing the answer from 
the stores of his own mind, without suggestion, although 
the question is new to him, we shall say there is liberated con- 
viction. The Hberated conviction is necessarily influenced 
by the examination, since the particular way in which 
the question is worded and presented to the child forces 
it to reason along a certain hne and to systematise its 
knowledge in a particular manner, but none the less it is 
an original product of the child's thought, since neither 
the reasoning it performs in order to answer the question 
nor the sum total of the previous knowledge on which 
it draws during its reflection are directly influenced by 
the experimenter. The liberated conviction is thus, 
strictly speaking, neither spontaneous nor suggested ; it 
is the result of reasoning, performed to order, but by 
means of original material (previous knowledge, mental 
images, motor schemas, syncretic associations, etc.) and 
original logical instruments (method of reasoning, natural 
tendencies of mind, intellectual habits, etc.). Finally, 
when the child has no need of reasoning to answer the 
question, but can give an answer forthwith because 
already formulated or capable of being formulated, there 
is spontaneous conviction. There is thus spontaneous 
conviction when the problem is not new to the child and 
when the reply is the result of a previous original reflection. 
We shall naturally exclude from this type of reaction, as 
from the preceding, answers influenced by teaching received 
previous to the examination. This involves a separate and 
naturally very complex problem, which consists in distin- 
guishing from among the answers received those that are 
the child's own and those that are drawn from its adult 
environment. We shall reconsider this question later. 
For the moment we are concerned with more clearly 
distinguishing the five types of reaction just enumerated, 
and shall start with the last. 

That the cUnical examination reveals the existence of 
spontaneous convictions and aids the chOd in formulating 
them for himself is incontestable. These convictions are 



12 CHILD'S CONCEPTION OF THE WORLD 

rare, in the sense that they are the hardest to arrive at, 
but they nevertheless exist. We shall see, for example, 
that boys of an average age of 8 can give a correct des- 
cription in words and a complete diagram of the mechanism 
of a bicycle. It is evident that such a result and such a 
synchronism in individual answers point to reflection 
previous to the examination, even were there no evidence 
of children asking questions concerning the details of a 
bicycle. We shall also see that it is enough to ask children 
of 6-8, " What is the sun doing while you are walking ? " 
to be told without more ado that the sim and moon 
follow them, moving and stopping when they do. The 
constancy of these answers and the spontaneity of the 
statement compared with the vague nature of the question 
undoubtedly mark the spontaneous conviction, that is to 
say a conviction estabUshed before the question was asked. 
But it is not so much the existence of the spontaneous 
conviction that the reader will feel inclined to dispute 
as the boundary line to be distinguished between the 
spontaneous and the hberated conviction. It is true that 
one frequently experiences the impression that a question 
set to a child is one that it has never yet given a thought 
to, and yet the unexpected originality of the reply seems 
to indicate previous reflection. How is the line of de- 
marcation to be fixed ? For instance we may ask a child, 
" Where does night come from ? " In such a form, the 
question contains no suggestion. The child hesitates, 
tries to avoid the question and finally replies that it is 
big black clouds which make night. Is this a spontaneous 
conviction or is it rather that the child, having never 
considered such a question, seeks an answer in the simplest 
hj^xjthesis, and one making the least demand on the 
imagination ? Either interpretation can be advanced. 
Both are probably true. Certain children on being asked 
why the clouds appear, answer, " to make it night." In 
such cases the explanation of the clouds by the night is 
clearly spontaneous. In other cases one has the impression 
that the child is inventing his explanation on the spot ? 



INTRODUCTION 13 

It is interesting to observe that in such a case the spon- 
taneous conviction coincides with the liberated conviction, 
but it is obvious that in general and even in this particular 
case they have not the same value for the psychologist. 

It is naturally quite useless to ask children if they have 
ever thought about the question asked. Either from lack 
of memory or of introspection, they are quite unable 
to say. 

But the question whether it is possible in every case to 
distinguish the spontaneous conviction from the Uberated 
conviction is not very important. The study of the 
liberated conviction is however of the greatest interest. It 
is important to insist on this, since it is essential to our 
scheme. It is a question of fact beyond challenge by any 
theoretical argmnent that the hberated conviction shows 
the same uniformity as the spontaneous conviction. 

For example, we made the following simple experiment : 
a stone was dropi)ed into a glass half full of water placed 
in front of a child who was asked why the level of the 
water rose. The answers given expressed a Hberated 
conviction in the majority of cases, that is to say in those 
cases where the child was not already aware that the level 
of the water would rise when the stone was dropped in. 
All the children under 9 declared that the water rose 
because the stone was " heavy," and the rest of the 
experiment showed that they did not consider the volume 
of the object but only its weight. Here then is a solution 
arrived at on the spot but showing a remarkable uni- 
formity amongst different children. In this work will be 
found a multitude of other examples showing the uni- 
formity of the hberated conviction. 

We thus see that even when the solution is invented 
by the child during the experiment itself, it is not invented 
from nothing. It impUes previously formed schemas, 
tendencies of mind, intellectual habits, etc. The golden 
ru'e is to avoid suggestion, that is to say to avoid dictating 
a particular answer among aU the possible answers. But 
on the assumption that the Hberated conviction can be 



14 CHILD'S CONCEPTION OF THE WORLD 

distinguished from the spontaneous conviction the former 
are worth serious study, for they reveal, if nothing more, 
the child's mental predilections. 

Let us take another example. A child asked us, " Who 
made the sun ? " We took this question and put it to a 
number of httle children in the non-suggestive form : 
" How did the sun begin ? " All the children declared 
that men had made it. Let us suppose this to be a mere 
invention of the moment and that the children had never 
before thought of such a question. There is here a 
solution which, in the first place, every child chose in 
preference to a number of others, and in the second place 
which they refused to set aside even under the pressure 
of our counter-suggestions. It seems then probable that 
this artificialist answer, even if of the liberated type, is 
connected with a latent artificialism, an artificiahst 
tendency of mind natural to children. Naturally this 
remains to be proved but good grounds are afforded for 
stating the problem thus. Moreover, the child would not 
abandon his hypothesis during the remainder of the ex- 
amination notwithstanding our attempts to make him. 
This gives a second indication showing that natural tend- 
encies at variance with this actificialist attitude are slight. 
Otherwise it would be easy to make the child alter his view, 
to make him invent something else, etc. 

In short, the study of the Hberated conviction is cer- 
tainly a justifiable one. The method consists of questioning 
the child on all his surroundings. The hypothesis is the 
assertion that the child invents his explanations in such 
a way as to reveal something of the spontaneous tendencies 
of his mind. In order to obtain any results by this method 
it must naturally be checked by a rigorous control, both 
as regards the manner of asking the questions and the 
interpretation of the answers. These rules we shall 
presently seek to formulate. 

If the line of demarcation between the hberated and 
the spontaneous conviction is of only relative importance 
it is on the contrary absolutely necessary clearly to 



INTRODUCTION 15 

distinguish the liberated conviction from the suggested 
conviction. It must not be thought that suggestion is 
easily avoided. A long apprenticeship is necessary before 
one can learn to recognise and avoid the numerous forms 
of suggestion possible. Two varieties are particularly 
dangerous, verbal suggestion and suggestion by perseveration. 

The former is easily distinguished in general but is very 
difficult to detect in detail. The only means of avoiding it 
is to learn children's talk and to frame the questions in 
this language. It is thus necessary when beginning an 
inquiry on a new topic to make the children talk first, 
simply as a means of acquiring a vocabulary that avoids 
aU suggestion. Without so doing it is impossible to foresee 
the far-reaching effects that some apparently inoffensive 
word may occasion. For example, such words as " going 
along," "walking," "moving" (" avancer," "marcher," 
" bouger ") are certainly not synonyms to a child. The 
sun goes along but it does not move, etc. If one carelessly 
uses a particular word that is unexpected to the child, 
one risks stimulating, simply by suggestion, animistic or 
anthropomorphic reactions which might then be mistaken 
for spontaneous. 

Suggestion due to perseveration is still harder to avoid, 
for the simple fact of continuing the conversation after 
the child's first answer tends to make him perseverate 
along the line he has already adopted. Further, any set 
examination arranged in series tends to cause persevera- 
tion. For example, to ask a child if a fish, a bird, the sun, 
the moon, the clouds, the wind, etc., are alive is to urge 
him to say " Yes " to all, simply by force of example. In 
such a case the answers are evidently " suggested " and 
certainly not " hberated " in the sense in which we are 
using the term. 

The suggested conviction is of no interest to the psycho- 
logist. Whilst the liberated conviction reveals habits of 
mind formed previous to the examination although 
systematised under its influence, the suggested conviction 
reveals nothing beyond the child's suggestibihty, which 



i6 CHILD'S CONCEPTION OF THE WORLD 

has no bearing on the conceptions it forms of the 
world. 

One would Uke to be able to rule out romancing with 
the same severity. But the question of romancing is one 
of the most delicate raised by the clinical study of the 
child. When the questions are set to children, especially 
to those of less than 7 or 8 years, it often happens that, 
looking perfectly candid and serious the while, they 
merely make fun of the question and invent an answer 
simply because they like the sound of it. The solution, 
in this case, is not suggested, since it is completely free 
and unexpected, and yet it is not to be classed with the 
Uberated conviction for the simple reason that it is not 
a conviction. The child is simply playing and if he comes 
to beUeve what he says it is merely by force of saying it 
and in the same way as he believes in his games, for the 
sole reason that he wants to believe in them. But the 
exact significance of this romancing is a very delicate 
question. There are three possible solutions. The first 
consists in comparing the romancing to what in a normal 
adult one would call " rotting." The child makes up the 
answer to make fun of the psychologist and principally to 
avoid having to think more about a question which he 
finds both dull and tiring. This is certainly the correct 
interpretation in the majority of the cases — which are 
however more or less rare — found after the age of 8. But 
it does not explain all the cases before the age of 7 or 8 
and there are two other possible solutions. 

The second solution compares romancing with the 
mjrthomania of the hysteric. The child thus invents, not 
so much to laugh at the world as because this is a natural 
process of his thought, and in the case of problems he 
finds tiresome, the most useful one. According to this 
second solution the child is partly taken in by it himself, 
and romances on his own account, as for instance when 
he resolves for himself some private problem of his own. 
This is certainly often the case with small children of 
about 4 or 5. Every one is famihar with the rhetorical 



INTRODUCTION 17 

questions small children ask aloud and to which they 
immediately supply the answer themselves. Nagy^ 
quotes the following question, " Why have bears got four 
feet ? " to which the child at once repUed : " Because 
they've been naughty and God has punished them." 
This is both pure monologue and romance. 

Seen in this hght romancing has some interest. It 
explains the solutions a child will give when it can find 
no better, and thus serves as an indication, negative it is 
true, but none the less often useful. It is in this sense 
that romancing answers from children of 4-6 will some- 
times be quoted in the course of this work. But it is 
obvious that care must be taken not to draw from such 
facts more than a negative indication. The study of 
romancing as such yields nothing like the wealth of 
material to be found in the study of the hberated conviction. 

Finally, according to the third solution, it is possible 
that romancing contains traces of earlier convictions or 
more rarely anticipations of a future one. When we are 
in the process of rehnquishing a cherished conviction by 
progressive stages we often as it were still play with it, 
sympathetically, yet without any longer beheving in it. 
So, allowing for the different circumstances, the child's 
romancing sometimes plays a similar rdle. In discussing 
artificiaUsm (Chapter XI, § 4), we shall see the half mythical 
romance of a mentally deficient who imagines his parents 
to have been present at the beginning of the world. This 
myth embodies the remains of the small child's belief in 
the onmipotence of its parents. 

The problem is exceedingly complex and from the 
beginning of our research we must be especially careful 
not to prejudge the nature of romancing. It is interesting 
in so far as it does not for the child bear the same relation 
to conviction as it does for us. We must therefore 
study it. But it is necessary, whatever our aim in studying 
it, to distinguish it carefully from the liberated conviction. 

^ Nagy, " Die Entwicklung des Interesses," Zeiischrift f. exp. Pdd. 
Vol. V, 1907. 



i8 CHILD'S CONCEPTION OF THE WORLD 

In the following section an attempt vvdll be made to give 
certain criteria by which this may be done. 

The answer at random still remains to be dealt v.Hth. 
If the question " What do 3 and 3 make ? " be asked 
a deficient or a child not yet old enough to know, the 
answer given is a bUnd shot such as 4 or 10 or 100. In 
fact the chUd seldom makes no answer and prefers in- 
venting one to remaining silent. This is not romancing 
for there is no systematisation in the invention nor does 
the child take any interest in it. The child romances to 
amuse itself ; the " answer at random " on the other hand 
arises from lack of interest. 

From the above classification of the different types of 
possible answer we may remark the following. The 
spontaneous convictions, that is to say those formed 
previous to the examination, are the most interesting. 
The liberated conviction is instructive in so far as it 
reveals the child's natural trend of mind. Romancing 
sometimes gives indications — though principally negative 
— and provided it is interpreted with the necessary 
prudence. Finally, suggested conviction and the answer 
at random are to be severely rejected, the former since 
they only show what the experimenter wanted the child 
to express and the latter since they merely reveal the 
subject's lack of comprehension. 

§ 3. Rules and Criteria for the Diagnosis of the 
Preceding Types of Reaction. — Having made clear 
the object of our research, we shall now attempt to 
frame certain rules as guides in the selection of the 
most interesting answers. In other words we shall try 
and elucidate the practical means of distinguishing the 
five types of reaction characterised in ahstracto in the 
preceding section. 

In the first place, how is the suggested conviction to be 
distinguished from the answer at random ? The suggested 
conviction is essentially momentary. A counter-suggestion 
made not necessarily at once but after a short lapse is 
sufficient to destroy it ; or it is enough merely to let the 



INTRODUCTION 19 

child talk for a few minutes and then to question it again 
indirectly on the same subject : the suggested conviction 
is like a parasite in the child's mind, which tends naturally 
to rid itself of the foreign matter. 

But this first criterion is not enough. Certain children 
are particularly susceptible and change their opinions 
so readily on every subject that it is impossible to rely 
on these oscillations as a guide. The method is then to 
pursue the examination more closely. The characteristic 
of suggested convictions is their lack of connection with 
the subject's other convictions, and also their dissimilarity 
with the convictions of other children of the same age 
and class. This yields two supplementary rules. In the 
first place, to probe all around the suspect answer to see 
whether or not its roots are solid, and then to ask the 
question under as many different guises as possible. 
Suggestion may thus be avoided by means of patience 
and analysis. 

These three criteria will a fortiori serve to exclude the 
answer at random, which is much more unstable even 
than the suggested conviction. As regards the answer at 
random and romancing, they are easily distinguished even 
independently of the context : romancing is much richer 
and more systematised, the answer at random being more 
in the nature of a blind alley. 

The suggested answer and the answer at random being now 
recognisable we must next define the criteria for romancing. 
Of the three preceding rules, two are useless for its detec- 
tion. Firstly, counter-suggestion is no weapon against it 
because the romancer resists the contradictor and romances 
all the harder the more pressing the objections by which 
he is opposed. Secondly, the analysis of the roots of the 
given answer is dif&cult, precisely because romancing is 
always so rich in its ramifications that it can appear under 
the deceptive guise of being sohdly ensconced in a setting 
of systematic convictions. Unlike suggestion, romancing 
is very difficult to recognise in an isolated case. The only 
method of tracking it down is to multiply cases. In 



20 CHILD'S CONCEPTION OF THE WORLD 

dealing with a large number of subjects, romancing may 
be distinguished from the liberated and the spontaneous 
convictions by means of the three following criteria. 

By questioning a large number of children of the same 
age one finds either that the suspected answer is very 
general or else that it is pecuUar to one or two given 
children. In the first case the chances are against the 
Ukelihood of romancing. In fact, since it is both a free 
and an individual form of invention it is most improbable 
that all the children would invent in the same way when 
answering the same question. But this first criterion is not 
enough because it is quite possible that a certain question 
is completely incomprehensible at a given age and can 
only give rise to romancing. Further, in such a case, 
romancing may tend to move along an obvious Une, thus 
giving rise to uniformity. This interpretation is particu- 
larly applicable where artificiaUsm is concerned. For 
example, children of 4 to 6 are questioned as to how the 
moon began. Suppose them to find the question incom- 
prehensible, they will then invent a myth and as the 
simplest is to have recourse to man they will all say " a 
man made it." We clearly need a more subtle criterion. 

There seems to be a second one at hand. Where a 
large number of children of different ages are questioned 
it may be that the suspected answer (which is by hypo- 
thesis generally in the lowest ages) will disappear entirely 
at a certain age level and give place to quite another type 
of answer. The children in this case could be divided into 
two stages, without an intermediary stage. On the 
contrary, it may be that the particular answer disappears 
progressively and gives place to a maturer ty|>e of answer 
only as the climax of a continuous development. Then the 
children must be divided into three divisions, two extreme 
stages and an intermediary stage. It is clear that in the 
latter case the chances of romancing are much less than 
in the former. For suppose that on a certain question 
children start with systematic opinions or a strong natural 
tendency and this opinion is subsequently brought into 



INTRODUCTION 21 

conflict with experience or teaching then it is evident that 
adaptation to the new point of view will not be instan- 
taneous but progressive. On the contrary, the absence of 
intermediaries between two successive groups of answers 
would certainly seem to indicate that the first group had 
no value in the eyes of the child and would thus seem to 
favour a hypothesis of the general existence of romancing 
during the first stage. 

Finally, a third criterion may profitably be studied : 
the method of arriving at the right answer. In fact if 
the answers given by the youngest children examined 
are not romancing, not only ought the disappearance of 
these answers to be progressive and not sudden, where the 
children are classified in groups according to their average 
ages, but also it should be possible to observe the primitive 
conceptions still chnging to the first correct answers 
themselves. In other words, if in a given process three 
stages can be distinguished one of which is intermediary, 
the type of answer of the first stage ought to be stiU 
traceable, not only during the second stage, but right to 
the beginning of the third. In such a case, it is practically 
certain that the answers belonging to the first stage do 
not result from romancing. 

Let us take an example. Children in the first stage 
maintain that the Lake of Geneva was dug by workmen 
who filled it with water. Children in the second stage still 
maintain that the lake was dug, but the water has come 
from the mountains, and originates from rain itself. 
Finally, in a third stage the child admits that the lake was 
made according to a natural law, the rivers hollowed it 
out and feed it with water. We can conclude that the 
artificialist answers of the first stage are not romancing, 
for not only are they general, and not only does the 
existence of the second stage show that the artificiaUsm 
does not disappear immediately, but also children are 
found at the beginning of the third stage who still beUeve 
that Geneva existed before the lake and that the lake is 
beside the town " because you must have the town before 



22 CHILD'S CONCEPTION OF THE WORLD 

the lake." The beginning of the third stage thus still 
shows the persistence of the artificiahst trend of mind. 

In conclusion, it is clear that it is comparatively easy 
to distinguish genuine conviction from romancing. The 
astonishing resemblance of children amongst one another 
— at any rate of civihsed children, of whatever social class, 
country or language — makes it possible to see fairly 
rapidly whether a particular conviction is general, lasting, 
and even capable of resisting the first adult lessons. 

On the contrary, it is difficult — and, curiously, this is 
the only real difficulty we encountered in appl5dng the 
method — to distinguish the spontaneous conviction from 
the liberated conviction amongst the answers obtained. 
As has already been pointed out : (i) Both resist sugges- 
tion ; (2) the roots of both he buried deep in the thought 
of the subject under examination ; (3) in both a wide 
generahty of ideas occurs in children of the same age ; (4) 
both last several years, decreasing progressively rather 
than being suddenly abandoned ; and finally traces of both 
are still to be found interwoven with the first correct 
answers, that is to say with answers depending on the 
pressure of adult environment. 

Are all answers then which satisfy these five conditions 
to be regarded as due to the child's spontaneous con- 
victions ? In other words, shall we admit that every- 
thing the child says which passes these tests has been 
formulated in its thought, previous to the examination ? 
It goes without saying that this is not the case. The only 
means of distinguishing the spontaneous from the hberated 
is by having recourse to pure observation. It is here that 
every inquiry must end, just as observation must be the 
inspiration from which every research starts. The study 
of questions asked by children themselves is in this respect 
of the greatest help. 

But this method is, as we have already shown, very 
limited in its use. On many points where the answers 
obtained by the chnical method seem to be highly 
systematised, children ask few if any questions. This is 



INTRODUCTION 23 

often precisely because the convictions disclosed by the 
clinical examinations have never previously been doubted 
and have thus never provided matter for question. But 
in such a case, it is not so much a matter of convictions as 
of tendencies, imphcit in the child's natural trend of mind 
rather than expHcitly formulated. They are points of 
view that remain subconscious, and undefined motive 
influences rather than conceptions. How then is the 
spontaneous conviction or tendency to be distinguished 
from the hberated conviction ? The rules for the clinical 
examination cannot furnish the solution. It is to be 
sought rather in the rules for interpretation in general and 
it is to these we must now turn. 

§ 4. Rules for the Interpretation of the 
Results. — In psychology as in physics there are no pure 
" facts," if by " facts " are meant phenomena presented 
nakedly to the mind by nature itself, independent respec- 
tively of hypotheses by means of which the mind examines 
them, of principles governing the interpretation of ex- 
perience, and of the systematic framework of existing 
judgments into which the observer pigeon-holes every new 
observation. We must therefore defme at least the general 
principles which are to guide us in interpreting the 
children's answers to our questions. Otherwise the reader 
will be raising mistaken difficulties from the outset — such 
for example as, What natural trend of mind leads the 
child to certain replies rather than to others when the 
reaction is of the liberated type ? What part does the 
adult play in the child's convictions, etc.^ 

But the contrary danger of prejudging the nature of 
the results before they have themselves been analysed, 
must also be avoided. The important thing is to find a 
number of rules of interpretation which will unite the 
maximum of flexibility with the maximum of strictness, 
in so far as these two requisites can be reconciled. Put 
more simply, we must find out what rules must be followed 
to avoid the dangers of premature judgment. 

In this connection two points are of especial import- 



24 CHILD'S CONCEPTION OF THE WORLD 

ance. The first concerns the relation between the verbal 
formula or conscious systematisation the child gives to 
its beliefs at the moment of the examination, and the 
preconscious trend of mind which has urged the child to 
invent, in whole or in part, a particular solution. For 
example a child gives an answer which is clearly hberated, 
that is to say, that we can as it were see the conviction 
forming under our eyes. Is this answer to be treated as if 
it was of the " spontaneous " type, or should we rather 
interpret it by taking account not so much of the actual 
answer as it stands, as of the tendencies which guided the 
child in its search ? But in this case how is the choice to be 
made and how are these tendencies of the child to be 
interpreted without distorting them ? The question is of 
extreme importance, in fact the whole value of the clinical 
method depends on its solution. 

There are two conflicting alternatives. The first is that 
of certain child psychologists who reject, as devoid of 
significance, all results determined strictly by question 
and answer (though naturally only so far as such an ex- 
amination aims at revealing the child's convictions and 
conceptions and not simply subjecting it to scholastic or 
mental tests). For these authors every examination tends 
to falsify perspective and pure observation alone provides 
an objective standpoint. But to so reserved a view the 
fact may always be opposed that the results of examinations 
are constant, at least on an average. When children are 
questioned as to the meaning of thinking or of names, all 
the youngest (or at least a sufficiently high number to 
warrant the word " all ") reply that thinking is with the 
mouth and that words or names reside in the things, etc. 
Such uniformity confronts the detractors of the method 
of examination and justifies, without further grounds, the 
continuation of this means of research. 

The alternative solution is that of those psychologists 
who regard every answer, or at any rate every " hberated " 
answer (in opposition to those which come from suggestion, 
romancing, or want of reflection), as being the expression 



INTRODUCTION 25 

of the child's spontaneous thought. This is what certain 
contributors to the Pedagogical Seminary seem to hold for 
example. If these authors are to be believed it is enough 
to set a number of questions to children and to coUect 
their answers to obtain " children's ideas " or " child 
theories," etc. Without wishing in the least to mis- 
represent the value and interest of many of these inquiries, 
we think none the less that this value is often something 
quite other than what the authors suppose. In other words 
we regard as very doubtful the principle according to 
which no matter what answer, so long as it be neither 
suggested nor the fruit of romancing, possesses the same 
coefficient of spontaneity as the answer of a normal adult, 
given in the course of an examination, or as a child's 
original conviction observed without interference or 
examination. It is true that such a principle may give 
rise to certain accurate conclusions, but only by chance, 
just as truth may often issue from what is false. As a 
general principle it is altogether erroneous, and it is 
alarming to think of the exaggerations that would result 
from questioning children on a number of subjects and 
regarding the answers thus obtained as being all of 
equal value, and as revealing equally the child's 
mentality. 

These considerations point the way to the rule of the 
just mean : to regard every Uberated conviction as an 
index, and to seek by means of this index the trend of 
mind that is thus revealed. This research itself may be 
guided by the following principle. Observation shows 
that the child's thought has Uttle systematisation, httle 
coherence, is not in general deductive, is for the most part 
untroubled by the need of avoiding contradiction, juxta- 
poses statements rather than S5mthesises them and accepts 
syncretic schemas without feehng the need to analyse. In 
other words, the child's thought more nearly resembles 
a sum total of inclinations resulting from both action and 
reverie (play combining these two processes, which are 
the simplest to yield organic satisfaction) than it resembles 



26 CHILD'S CONCEPTION OF THE WORLD 

the self-conscious and systematic thought of the adult. 
Therefore, to arrive at the trend of mind by a Uberated 
conviction, the principle is to strip this conviction of every 
systematic element. 

To achieve this, the influence of the question set must 
first be discounted, that is to say one must abstract from 
the child's answer the fact that it is an answer. For 
example, if one asks " how did the sun begin ? " and the 
child rephes " men made it " the only indication to be 
retained is that there exists for the child a vague connec- 
tion between the sun and men, or that men count for 
something in the nature of the sun. If to the questions 
" how did the names of things begin ? " and " where are 
the names ? " the child answers that the names come from 
the things themselves and are in things, all we may conclude 
is that for the child names belong more to objects than to 
the subject who thinks of them and that the child is realist 
from its natural trend of mind. Care must be taken in 
these two examples not to claim for the child a spon- 
taneous inclination to state the origin of the sun and moon 
(unless pure observation shows such) nor a concern as to 
the place of names. The only information that the answer 
yields is so to speak the direction towards which it points, 
an artificialist direction as regards the first example, and 
a realist direction as regards the second. 

Next the answers obtained must be stripped of all 
logical character and care taken not to introduce an 
artificial coherence where coherence is of an organic rather 
than a logical character. Thus children will answer that 
the sun, the moon, the sky, the night are made of clouds 
and that the clouds are of smoke. The lightning and the 
stars are of fire which comes from the smoke, etc. A 
delightful system, according to which the smoke from the 
chimney is the principle of meteorology and astronomy ! 
Only it does not happen to be a system. The connecting 
links are only partly realised, half formulated and sketched 
in the rough rather than clearly outHned. Further, these 
associations do not exclude others, and others that seem 



INTRODUCTION 27 

to us to contradict them — thus the child may conceive 
these same objects as hving and conscious, etc. 

Finally, an attempt must be made to strip the answers 
of their verbal element. There is certainly present to the 
child a whole world of thought, incapable of formulation 
and made up of images and motor schemas combined. 
Out of it issue, at least partially, ideas of force, life, weight, 
etc., and the relations of objects amongst themselves are 
penetrated with these indefinable associations. When the 
child is questioned he translates his thought into words, 
but these words are necessarily inadequate. Thus the 
child says it is the sun which " makes " the clouds move. 
Is this to be taken as meaning that the sun attracts or 
repels the clouds, or that it chases them as a poUceman 
chases a thief and thus " makes " them run away ? Either 
is possible. But, here again, the important thing is the 
attitude rather than the formula, the direction of the 
thought rather than the answer given. 

Briefly, the principle for the interpretation of the 
liberated answer, and also in part for the spontaneous 
answer, is to regard these answers as symptoms rather 
than as realities. But where draw the hne in this critical 
elimination ? Pure observation must decide. If a large 
number of children's questions are examined and the 
answers obtained by clinical examination compared with 
these spontaneous questions, it will be seen in what 
measure a certain trend of thought corresponds with 
questions systematically asked. Thus, as regards arti- 
ficiaUsm, but little observation will show that the connec- 
tion between men and things often assumes spontaneously 
in the child the relation of maker to thing made : the 
child spontaneously asks certain questions concerning 
origin and asks them in such a way as to imply from the 
start the notion that it is men who have made or contri- 
buted towards making the things. 

But the above rules will not suffice to resolve all the 
problems involved in the interpretation of the answers. 
Unfortunately the study of the child raises a much more 



28 CHILD'S CONCEPTION OF THE WORLD 

serious difficulty, that of distinguishing from among the 
results of the examination the part to be regarded as the 
child's original contribution and that due to previous 
adult influences. 

Put in this form the problem is insoluble. It involves, 
in fact, two quite distinct questions. The history of the 
child's intellectual development is largely the history of 
the progressive sociaUsation of its individual thought, at 
first resisting adaptation to social conditions, then be- 
coming increasingly penetrated by surrounding adult 
influences. In this respect all the child's thought is 
destined, from the commencement of language, to be 
absorbed progressively in adult thought. Here arises the 
first problem. What is the evolution of this socialisation ? 
From the fact that there is progressive sociaUsation it 
follows that throughout the whole course of the child's 
development, the contents of its thought fall into two 
categories : one due to adult influence and the other to 
the child's original reactions. In other words, the child's 
convictions are the product of a reaction influenced but 
not dictated by the adult. This reaction certainly merits 
a study and will be treated during the course of this work. 
For the present it is enough to reahse that there are three 
factors in the problem ; namely, the world to which the 
child adapts itself, the child's own world of thought and 
the adult society which influences this thought. But, on 
the other hand there are two very different types of con- 
viction among children which need to be distinguished. 
Some are, as we have just seen, influenced but not dictated 
by the adult. Others, on the contrary, are simply 
swallowed whole, either at school, or from the family, or 
from adult conversations which the child overhears, etc. 
These naturally have not the shghtest interest. And this 
forms the matter of the second problem, the more im- 
portant from the point of view of methodology, namely, 
how to distinguish those beliefs imposed by the adult and 
those showing an original reaction on the part of the child 
(a reaction influenced, but not dictated by the adult) ? — 



INTRODUCTION 29 

It is evident that these two problems need distinguishing. 
We must now examine them separately. 

As regards the first, two conflicting solutions can be 
put forward. According to one, there are no such things 
as convictions strictly the child's own ; nothing can be 
discerned save traces of stray and incomplete information, 
received from without, and to know children's own real 
thoughts one would have to bring up orphans on a desert 
island. This at heart is the solution imphcit in the work 
of many sociologists. The idea that savages can teach us 
more than children as to the genesis of human thought, 
although the savages are known only at second or third 
hand by those qualified to study them scientifically, rests 
largely on the tendency to regard the child as entirely 
moulded by the surroimding social forces. But it may 
weU be that the child's originaUty has been singularly 
misunderstood, simply because being egocentric it seeks 
neither to convince us of the correctness of its mental 
judgments nor above all to become sufficiently conscious 
of them to expose them to us. It may well be that we 
only see in the child his groping uncertainties precisely 
because he does not bother to speak of or even notice 
matters which are obvious to him. It is therefore legiti- 
mate to refuse to admit d. priori the absolute conformity 
of the child's conceptions with those of the world sur- 
rounding him. Further, if the logical structure of child 
thought differs from our adult logic, as we have sought to 
show elsewhere, it seems probable that the content of 
child thought is itself partly original. 

Must we then adopt the other extreme solution and 
make the child a sort of schizoid Uving entirely in its 
own automatism, although in appearance sharing in the 
life of the social body ? This would be to misrepresent 
the fact that the chUd is a being whose principal activity 
is adaptation and who is seeking to adapt itself not only 
to the adult who surrounds it but to nature itself. 

The truth lies surely between the two. Stem, in his 
study of child language, has followed a guiding principle 



30 CHILD'S CONCEPTION OF THE WORLD 

that we may well adopt, whilst enlarging it in favour of the 
originality of child thought. For with children thought 
is indeed much more original in its character than is 
language. At any rate what Stem says of language is 
a fortiori equally true of thought. 

Let us admit, says Stem, that in his language the child 
limits himself altogether to copying the adult slavishly. 
It yet occurs that this copy contains a number of elements 
of spontaneity. For, in point of fact, the child does not 
copy everything. Its imitation is selective ; certain 
features are copied outright, others eliminated after a 
period of years. Moreover, the order in which these 
imitations are made is practically constant. The gram- 
matical categories, for example, are acquired in a fixed 
order, etc. But what does imitation, made selectively and 
in a fixed order, signify if not a measure of spontaneous 
reaction. At any rate such facts point emphatically to 
the existence of a structure more or less independent of 
external pressure. 

But there is yet more. Even that which seems copied 
is in reahty deformed and recreated. The words the child 
uses, for example, are the same as we use, but they have 
a different meaning, either wider or narrower as the case 
may be. Associations are different ; S3nitax and style are 
original. 

Stern thus puts forward on good grounds the hypothesis 
that the child digests what it borrows and digests it 
according to a mental chemistry of its own. Yet how much 
more vahd are these considerations when appUed to the 
domain of thought itself, where the role of imitation, as 
a formative factor, is evidently much smaller. In fact when 
dealing with conceptions we are continually meeting what 
one rarely finds in regard to language — a real clash between 
the child's thought and its adult surroundings, resulting 
in systematic distortion by the child of the information 
imparted to it by adults. To appreciate the extent of this 
phenomenon one must actually have seen how far children 
fail to understand even the best lessons. 



INTRODUCTION 31 

It may indeed be urged that every language contains 
both logic and cosmology and that since the child learns 
to speak at the same time or before it learns to think, 
its thought will be in terms of the adult social medium. 
This is partly true. But from the very fact that, for the 
child, adult language is not what a foreign language is to 
us (that is to say a system of signs corresponding point for 
point with already acquired notions), it is possible to 
distinguish between child notions and adult notions simply 
by examining the use the child makes of our words and 
notions. It will then be seen that adult language con- 
stitutes for the child a reality which is often hazy in its 
outhnes and that one of the activities of his thought is 
to adapt himself to this rcahty, just as he must adapt 
himself to physical reality itself. But this adaptation 
which characterises the child's verbal thought is original 
and presupposes sui generis schemas of mental digestion. 
Thus even when a child constructs a particular notion to 
correspond to a word of adult language, this notion may 
be entirely the child's, in the sense that the word was 
originally as hazy to his intelligence as a certain physical 
phenomenon might be, and to understand it he had to 
deform and assimilate it according to a mental structure 
of his own. We shall find an excellent illustration of this 
law when studying the child's notion of " life." The 
notion of " hving " has been constructed by the child to 
correspond to an adult word. But it embraces something 
quite other than the adult notion of " hfe " and testifies 
to an entirely original conception of the world. 

The principle to which we are referring consists then 
in regarding the child, not as a being of pure imitation, 
but as an organism which assimilates things to itself, 
selects them and digests them according to its own 
structure. In this way even what is influenced by the 
adult may still be original. 

It goes without saying that pure imitations and pure 
reproductions frequently occur. A child's conviction is 
often simply the passive replica of a conversation it has 



32 CHILD'S CONCEPTION OF THE WORLD 

heard. Moreover, as the child develops, its comprehension 
of the adult increases, and it becomes capable of assimi- 
lating the convictions of its associates without deforming 
them. How then shaU we distinguish in the results of 
the clinical examination the part due to the child itself 
and that due to adult conversation which the child has 
absorbed ? All the rules already prescribed (§ 3) for 
distinguishing the spontaneous and hberated answers from 
those due to suggestion during the experiment hold for 
the solution of this new problem. 

First comes the uniformity of the answers of the same 
average age. In fact, if all the children of the same 
mental age arrive at the same conception of a given 
phenomenon, in defiance of the variations in their personal 
circmnstances, their experience and the conversation they 
have overheard, etc., this may be regarded as a prime 
guarantee of the originahty of the conviction. 

Secondly, in so far as the child's convictions follow with 
increasing age a continuous evolution, there is fresh pre- 
sumption in favour of the originahty of the conviction. 

Thirdly, if a particular conviction is really the product 
of the child's mind, its disappearance will not be sudden 
and it should be possible to estabhsh a number of com- 
binations or compromises between it and the new convic- 
tion which is tending to supplant it. 

Fourthly, a conviction having real sohdarity with a 
given mental structure wiU resist suggestion ; and fifthly, 
this conviction wiU present a multitude of proUferations 
and will react on a number of neighbouring conceptions. 

These five criteria, jointly apphed, will suffice to show 
whether a particular conviction has been simply borrowed 
by the child from adults by passive imitation, or whether 
it is in part the product of the child's mental structure. 
Manifestly these criteria will no longer reveal the product 
of adult teaching at the age when the child can comprehend 
all that he is told (after the age of 11 or 12), But by then 
the child is no longer a child and his mental structure is 
becoming that of the adult. 



PART I 

REALISM 

In estimating the child's conceptions of the world the 
first question, obviously, is to decide whether external 
reality is as external and objective for the child as it is 
for us. In other words, can the child distinguish the self 
from the external world ? In an earher study of child 
logic ^ we also met at the outset the problem of the 
self and reached the conclusion that logic develops as 
thought becomes sociaUsed. So long as the child supposes 
that every one necessarily thinks hke himself, he will not 
spontaneously seek to convince others, nor to accept 
common truths, nor, above all, to prove or test his 
opinions. If his logic lacks exactitude and objectivity 
it is because the social impulses of maturer years are 
counteracted by an innate egocentricity. In studying 
the child's thought, not in this case in relation to others 
but to things, we are faced at the outset with the analog- 
ous problem of the child's capacity to dissociate thought 
from self in order to form an objective conception of 
reality. 

At first sight the question seems futile. The child, like 
the uncultured adult, appears exclusively concerned with 
things. He is indifferent to the Ufe of thought and the 
originaUty of individual points of view escapes him. His 
earhest interests, his first games, his drawings are all con- 
cerned solely with the imitation of what is. In short, the 
child's thought has every appearance of being exclusively 
reahstic. 

J. Piaget, Language and Thought of the Child. Kegan Paul, 1926. 

83 



34 CHILD'S CONCEPTION OF THE WORLD 

But realism is of two tj^es, or rather, objectivity must 
be distinguished from realism. Objectivity consists in so 
fully realising the countless intrusions of the self in every- 
day thought and the countless illusions which result — 
illusions of sense, language, point of view, value, etc. — 
that the preliminary step to every judgment is the effort 
to exclude the intrusive self. Realism, on the contrary, 
consists in ignoring the existence of self and thence 
regarding one's own perspective as immediately objective 
and absolute. ReaUsm is thus anthropocentric illusion, 
finality — in short, all those illusions which teem in the 
history of science. So long as thought has not become 
conscious of self, it is a prey to perpetual confusions 
between objective and subjective, between the real and the 
ostensible ; it values the entire content of consciousness 
on a single plane in which ostensible realities and the uncon- 
scious interventions of the self are inextricably mixed. 

It is thus not futile, but, on the contrary, indispensable 
to establish clearly and before all else the boundary the 
child draws between the self and the external world. 
Nor is the method new. The work of Mach and Baldwin 
has long since made it familiar to psychology. Mach 
showed that the distinction between the internal or psychic 
world and the external or physical world is far from 
innate. It arises from action, which, engendered in a 
reality, of itself undifferentiated, comes httle by little to 
group images about one or other of these two poles, 
round which two intercorresponding systems are built up. 

Baldwin uses the term projective for that primitive 
state in which images are simply " presented " to con- 
sciousness, without there being any distinction between 
the self and the not-self. This projective stage is char- 
acterised by what he terms " adualisms " : the dualisms 
between internal and external, and between thought and 
things, in particular, being at this stage entirely absent 
and only subsequently being gradually constructed by 
logical development. 1 

^ J. M. Baldwin, Thoughts and Things. 



REALISM 35 

But these views are still theoretical. Mach's hypothesis 
is not based on a true genetic psychology and " the 
genetic logic " of Baldwin is constructive rather than 
experimental. Whence any attempt to pursue more 
closely his ingenious developments reveals, if not their 
precarious structure, at least their complexity. 

What, for example, does " projection " really mean ? 
The difficulty of distinguishing " projection " from " ejec- 
tion " renders three interpretations possible. Sometimes 
there is simply a failiu^e to differentiate between the self 
and the external world, that is, absence of consciousness 
of self. Thus it is claimed that when a child speaks of 
himself in the third person, it is because he sees himself 
not in the r61e of subject but as if from without. In this 
case " projection " signifies that the child in question 
recounts, and perhaps imagines, his own actions as belong- 
ing to an external order of things. 

In other cases, there is " projection " when we attribute 
to things characteristics belonging to the self or to thought. 
Thus the child who places the " name of the sun " in the 
sun, " projects " an internal reahty into the external 
world. 

Finally, it is difficult to distinguish " projection " from 
those cases in which we endow things not only with our 
own characteristics but also with such conscious motives 
as might occasion the sensation we experience in observing 
them ; thus a child, frightened by the sight of fire, endows 
the fire with maUcious designs. It is not the feeling of fear 
which is attributed to the fire, rather the child projects 
into the fire the reciprocal sentiment of mahciousness. 

It is in this third sense that psycho-analysts have used 
the word " projection." It is a different sense from the 
two former but it is obvious that there is a relationship 
between aU three and probably complete continuity. At 
any rate in all three cases there is " aduahsm " between 
the internal and the external. 

What then is the mechanism of projection ? Does it 
imply simply failure to classify the contents of conscious- 



36 CHILD'S CONCEPTION OF THE WORLD 

ness? This is the impression given by reading Baldwin. He 
explains clearly enough the process by which the contents 
are differentiated and the nature of the " dualisms " so 
formed, but the construction of the primitive and aduaUstic 
states is not made clear. This is due, no doubt, to Mr. 
Baldwin's method. In his later writings his genetic logic 
is built up with great analytic subtlety, but as if it was 
dependent on psychological introspection alone, that is 
to say as if he regarded consciousness as an ultimate datum 
and took no account either of the unconscious or of the 
biological factor. But it is questionable whether genetic 
psychology must not necessarily suppose biological data, 
and particularly whether " projection " does not result 
from an unconscious process of assimilation, previously 
conditioned by the objective world and the self, irrespec- 
tive of consciousness. If such is the case, the various 
types of projection are dependent on the various possible 
combinations of assimilation and adaptation. 

But to reveal these processes and to trace their evolu- 
tion, a minute study of the facts is absolutely essential. 
Since the field of study is obviously so vast, we shaU 
limit ourselves to the analysis of such clearly defined 
facts as will throw most light on these difficult questions. 
We shall adopt a method of regression. Starting from a 
description of the conceptions children form as to the 
nature of thought (dualism between thought and things), 
we shall thence pass to a study of the boundaries children 
draw, in the matter of words, names and dreams, between 
the external and internal worlds, concluding with a brief 
analysis of certain kindred phenomena. The advantage 
of this regressive method is that in starting with the 
phenomena that are easiest to interpret we shall be able 
to disentangle certain guiding threads which we should 
miss in following a chronological method. 



CHAPTER I 
THE NOTION OF THOUGHT 

Let us imagine a being, knowing nothing of the distinction 
between mind and body. Such a being would be aware 
of his desires and feeUngs but his notions of self would 
undoubtedly be much less clear than ours. Compared 
with us he would experience much less the sensation of 
the thinking self within him, the feeling of a being in- 
dependent of the external world. The knowledge that 
we are thinking of things severs us in fact from the actual 
things. But, above all, the psychological perceptions of 
such a being would be entirely different from our own. 
Dreams, for example, would appear to him as a disturb- 
ance breaking in from without. Words would be bound 
up with things and to speak would mean to act directly 
on these things. Inversely, external things would be less 
material and would be endowed with intentions and will. 

We shall try to prove that such is the case with the child. 
The child knows nothing of the nature of thought, even at 
the stage when he is being influenced by adult talk concern- 
ing " mind," " brain," " inteUigence." 

The technique is briefly as follows. The child is asked : 
" Do you know what it means to think of something ? 
When you are here and you think of your house, or when 
you think of the holidays, or of your mother, you are 
thinking of something." And then when the child has 
understood : " Well then, what is it you think with ? " 
If, as seldom happens, he has not grasped the idea, the 
matter must be further explained : " When you walk, 
you walk with the feet ; well then, when you think, what 

87 



38 CHILD'S CONCEPTION OF THE WORLD 

do you think with ? " Whatever the answer may be, 
the meaning behind the words is what matters. Finally 
comes the question, supposing it were possible to open a 
person's head without his dying, could you see a thought, 
or touch it, or feel it with the finger, etc. Naturally, these 
last questions, which are suggestive, must be kept to the 
end, that is to say till the moment when the child cannot 
be made to say anything more of itself. 

Moreover, when, as sometimes happens, the child makes 
use of words he has learnt, such as " brain," " mind," 
etc., he must be questioned further on the words until 
it is clear how he came to assimilate them. They 
may be merely empty phrases, or, on the contrary, 
they may be exceedingly suggestive deformations of true 
conceptions. 

In this way we have traced three distinct stages, the 
first of which is easily distinguishable from the other two 
and appears to contain a purely spontaneous element. 
During this stage children believe that thinking is " with 
the mouth." Thought is identified with the voice. 
Nothing takes place either in the head or in the body. 
Naturally, thought is confused with the things themselves, 
in the sense that the word is a part of the thing. There 
is nothing subjective in the act of thinking. The average 
age for children of this stage is 6. 

The second stage is marked by adult influences. The 
child has learnt that we thmk with the head, sometimes 
it even alludes to the " brain." Three circumstances, 
however, indicate a certain degree of spontaneity in the 
child's convictions. The first is the age : this type of 
answer is always found about the age of 8, But more 
important is the continuity existing between the first and 
second stages. Indeed, thought is often looked on as a 
voice inside the head, or in the neck, which shows the 
persistence of the influence of the child's previous con- 
victions. Finally, there is the way in which the child 
materialises thought : thought is made of air, or of blood, 
or it is a ball, etc. 



THE NOTION OF THOUGHT 39 

The third stage, the average age of which is 11-12, 
shows thought no longer materialised. It is no doubt 
difficult to distinguish clearly the third stage from the 
second. But the essential for us is to distinguish the 
second from the first, that is to say the adult's contribu- 
tion from the child's conviction. 

§ I. The First Stage : Thought is with the Mouth. 
— Stem's daughter,^ Hilda, thought that we speak with 
the tongue and animals with the mouth. She further 
admitted that people think when they talk and stop 
thinking when their mouths are shut. According to the 
material we have collected such convictions are very 
general among children. 

Mont. (7 ; o) 2 : " You know what it means to think ? 
— Yes. — Then think of your house. What do you think 
with ? — The mouth. — Can you think with the mouth 
shut ? — No. — With the eyes shut ? — Yes. — With the ears 
stopped up ? — Yes. — Now shut your mouth and think of 
your house. Are you thinking ? — Yes. — What did you 
think with ? — The mouth." 

Pig (9 ; 6, backward) : " You know the word ' think ' ? 
— Yes. — What does it mean, to think ? — When someone is 
dead and you think of them. — Do you sometimes think ? — 
Yes, of my brother. — Do you think at school ? — No. — And 
here ? (we were in the school office). — Yes, I think because 
you have asked me things. — What do you think with ? — 
The mouth and ears. — And do babies think ? — No. — Does 
a baby think when its mother talks to it ? — Yes. — What 
with ? — With the mouth." 

Acker (7:7): " What do you think with ? — The 
mouth." This statement was reiterated four times in 

^ Die Kinder spr ache, p. 210. Leipzig, 1907. See also Sully, Studies 
of Childhood. 

» 7 ; = 7 years, o months. The words of the child are in italics and 
those of the examiner in Roman lettering. All the words quoted are 
exactly as they were spoken. Inverted commas mark the beginning 
and end of a conversation in which no omission has been made. All 
the subjects were boys unless otherwise stated. 

[Translator's note.] French-speaking children generally have a 
wider vocabulary than English children of the same age, and where on 
account of an unnatural ring in the English equivalent, any modification 
has been made, the French phrase is inserted in brackets. 



40 CHILD'S CONCEPTION OF THE WORLD 

the course of an examination on dreams which appears 
later. After the questions on animism we added : " Can 
a dog think ? — Yes, it listens. — Can a bird think ? — No, 
it hasn't any ears. — What does a dog think with ? — Its 
ears. — Does a fish think ? — No. — A snail ? — No. — A horse ? 
— Yes, with its ears. — A hen ? — Yes, with its mouth." 

ScHMi (5^) : " What do people think with ? — The 
mouth." 

MuY (6) : " What do you think with ? — With something, 
with my mouth." 

Sometimes, as we have just seen, thinking is not only 
with the mouth but with the ears. 

Barb (5j) : " You know what it means to think ? — 
When you can't remember something, you think. — What do 
you think with ? — The ears. — If you were to stop them 
up, could you think ? — Yes . . . no. . . ." 

Rehm (5 ; ii) : " You know what it means to think of 
something ? — Yes. — Think of your house. — Yes. — What 
do you think with ? — With the ears. — When you think of 
your house, you think with the ears ? — Yes." 

Barb's formula is interesting : to think is to recall a 
voice or a forgotten sound. The above cases lead directly 
to the following. These foreshadow the second stage, for 
the children already say we think with the head, but the 
thought is not yet internal for it is still associated with 
the mouth. We shall reserve for the second stage the 
children who no longer speak of the mouth and who 
regard thought as a little voice situated in the head. 
Between the two groups there are innumerable transitions, 
but in any attempt at classification a line must be drawn 
somewhere. We shall, therefore, keep for the first stage 
those children who expHcitly use the word " mouth." 

Ceres (7) : " What do we think with ? — / don't know. 
— Where do we think ? — In the head. — Where ? — In the 
mouth, inside the head." 

Ratt (8 ; 10) : " When you think of your house, where 
is what you think ? — In the head. — What is there inside 
your head ? — Nothing. — How can you think of your house 
then ? — With the mouth." " Are there words inside your 



THE NOTION OF THOUGHT 41 

head ? — No. — Is there a voice ? — Yes. — Are the voice and 
thinking the same thing ? — Yes." 

Kenn (7^) : " What do you think with ? — Inside my 
head. — Is the head empty or full ? — Full. — If someone 
opened your head, would they see when you were think- 
ing ? — No, because they couldn't see. — If they could look 
inside your head without your dying, would they see your 
thought ? — You can't hear it when you speak gently. — 
What do you think with ? — The head. — With what part 
of the head ? — The mouth. — What is inside the head ? Is 
thought inside ? — Yes, when you are thinking of something. 
— What is inside the head ? — When you speak. — Can you 
think when your mouth is shut ? — Yes, without speaking. 
— What do you think with when you don't speak ? — The 
mouth. — What is there inside the head when you think ? 
— Nothing. — Can you see thought ? — No. — Could I hear it ? 
— No. — Could I feel it if I put my finger there ? — Yes." 

This is an excellent example. The resistance and the 
spontaneity of the child's conviction are clearly seen ; 
without any suggestion he starts saying that you can't 
hear the thought when you speak gently and only then 
realises that thinking is with the mouth. Thought is thus 
a silent voice inside the head. Note, however, that you 
can feel this voice with the finger : Kenn here forestalls 
those cases in which thought is explicitly assimilated to 
air (the breath expelled from the mouth in speaking). 

In all the above children there is a spontaneous con- 
viction at the root of the answers given. In others there 
is at first nothing, but during the course of the examina- 
tion a conviction is " Uberated " though it has not been 
suggested by it, and here is the interesting point, this 
conviction resembles the former spontaneous one. 

Metr (5 ; 9) : " When you think, what do you think 
with ? — / don't know. — With your hands ? — No. — With 
your head ? — No. You can't ever see thinking. — What do 
you read with ? — The eyes. — Can you think with your 
eyes shut P—Y^s.— With your mouth shut ^—No, I can't. 
— With your ears stopped up ? — Yes. — Do babies think ? 
— No, they don't know how. They are too little. — What do 
we think with ? — / don't know. I've never seen thinking. — 



42 CHILD'S CONCEPTION OF THE WORLD 

Do we think with the head ?—iVo.— What then 7— With 
the mouth." 



Here is an excellent example of the liberated conviction. 
The conviction can be seen gradually emerging, without 
direct intervention from us, but also without the child 
inunediately finding a solution. 

Sometimes varieties are found, but they are rare. Only 
one child (Go, 5 ; 9) said that thinking was with the heart. 
But this must have been a word he had been taught, for 
during the course of the questions. Go changed, and stated 
that thinking was with the ears. With this exception, 
all the subjects that could not be classified as belonging 
either to the second or the third stage, stated thinking 
to be either with the mouth or with the ears. The children 
being either of a visual or an auditory type, it might 
have been supposed that their answers would correspond 
and that all the former would claim to think with the 
eyes. But this was not found, and the question of imagery 
seems to play no part. At any rate the only two children 
who said they thought with the eyes, gave this answer 
after being questioned on the subject of dreams, which 
reduces the value of their statements. 

How is this assimilation of thought to language to be 
interpreted ? In the first place, it must be reahsed that 
to children the word " thinking " has a restricted mean- 
ing ; for them, to think means to reflect, that is, tb think 
with an effort. They have no idea of any other mani- 
festation of thought, excepting the dream of which we 
shall speak later. The word " memory " is generally 
unknown to them, and when asked with what they 
" remember," they either fail to understand or they 
again give the answer that it is with the mouth. But 
if the term thought has a restricted sense for them, it is 
none the less the only word which signifies to children a 
purely mental act. And as we have just seen, they 
regard the mouth as the only seat of this mental activity. 
What follows ? 



THE NOTION OF THOUGHT 43 

There is one essential distinction that must be intro- 
duced here. Stem ^ claimed that from about the age of 
3, a differentiation is made between the psychical and 
the physical, in the sense that from this time the child 
uses certain words meaning " to beUeve," " to appear," 
etc., as in the sentence, " I think (je crois) she has a head- 
ache." 2 The child, he claims, thus distinguishes between 
the real it perceives from the interpretation or hypothesis, 
that is to say between things and thought. But we must 
guard against the fallacy of accepting that which is only 
implicitly expressed as being comprehended and for that 
reason the sphere of action must not be confounded with 
that of reflection. In the sphere of action, in the actual 
flow of thought, it is certainly true that the children of 
whom Stem speaks begin to distinguish immediate per- 
ception from suppositions and inferences. This is a 
notable advance, but it is not a reason for supposing that 
such children are themselves conscious of the duality 
(that is to say, have reaUsed what is implied in this 
action). Above all, it is no reason for assuming that 
they have deduced from this duality the idea of a reality 
that is perceived and a thought that interprets it. 

In short, there is no ground for supposing they have 
made any general distinction between the psychical and 
the physical. The only discovery which these children 
have made is that they no longer regard reality as being 
entirely in accordance with their wants and their asser- 
tions (see Language and Thought, pp. 232, 233). But 
physical reality at this stage may well be so fully endowed 
with intentions and with psychical characteristics, etc., 
that the child can easily fail to recognise the thought as 
his own or conceive it as a material voice. 

In treating of the development of the notion of thought, 
we may thus regard as primitive the child's conviction 

^ Die Kinder spr ache. Leipzig, 1907 

* The French child distinguishes between "'I think " (je pense) and 
' I beheve " (je crois), where the Enghsh child will normally use 
' I think " for both. [Translator's note.] 



44 CHILD'S CONCEPTION OF THE WORLD 

that it thinks with the mouth. The notion of thinking, 
as soon as it appears, becomes confused with that of 
voice, that is to say with words, either spoken or heard. 

It would certainly be expected that since speech is an 
activity of the self, some distinction between psychical 
and physical would already be present at this stage. But 
there are two fundamental objections to this view : firstly, 
words are, for the child, a part of material reahty ; and 
secondly, the subjective activity involved in speech is 
either unnoticed by the child or is assimilated to a material 
process, such as breathing or blowing. Thought thus 
consists either of " word-things " or, more rarely, of air. 

In fact, to children words convey nothing internal or 
psychical. We shall try to prove this subsequently by a 
direct analysis, when we shall find that words are regarded 
as a part of things and are situated within the things. 
The function of the ears and mouth is thus limited to 
collaborating with the things, to receiving words and to 
sending them forth. So, too, we shall see that at a certain 
stage the dream is "in the room," in the same way that 
thought is both outside and inside the mouth. There is 
no clear distinction between the psychical and internal 
and the material and external. 

For the moment then we must accept a first approxi- 
mation. When children are questioned " where does 
thought come from ? " whilst stating that they think 
with the mouth they will still not hesitate to give an 
external origin to thought. This is sliown in the two 
following examples : — 

Acker (7 ; 7) told us four times, as we have already 
seen, that thinking is with the mouth. " When you think 
with the mouth, where does the thought come from ? — 
From the eyes, from outside. You see, then you think. — 
Then when you don't speak, are you thinking ? — Yes. 
— What with ? — The mouth." — A moment later : " When 
you don't say anything what do you think with ? — The 
stomach." As he said this Acker pointed to the larynx in 
explanation, showing that he was thinking all the time 
of voice. 



THE NOTION OF THOUGHT 45 

Ratt (8 ; 10) told us, as we saw, that there is nothing 
in the head, when we think. " Can one see the voice ? — 
No. — Can one feel it ? — Yes. — Have words got strength ? 
— Yes. — Tell me a word which has strength ? — The wind. 
— Why has the word ' wind ' got strength ? — Because it 
goes quickly. — Is it the word or the wind which goes 
quickly ? — The wind. — Tell me a word which has strength. 
— When you give something a kick. — Is that a word ? — 
No. — Tell me a word which has strength — . . . — What 
do you think with ? — With the mouth. — What is inside 
the head when you think ? — Nothing. — What does the 
voice do ? — It speaks. — You know what words are ? — 
When you speak. — Where is the word ' house ' ? — In the 
mouth. — Is it in the head ? — No." 

The value of these examples will perhaps be questioned 
before our results as to words have been seen (§ 4 and 
Chapter II). But in the Ught of these results, the two 
cases above are quite clear. Neither of the children dis- 
tinguished words from the things named. Acker thus 
beheved that to see a house was enough to make one 
instantly think of the word, as if the name was inscribed 
on the thing. Ratt was unable to understand that it is 
things and not words that have strength. The word is 
thus perceived in the thing. Just as to the sensationalists 
thought was a series of images imprinted on the brain by 
the stimulus of things, so to the child it is the uttering of 
words which are placed in the mouth by the agency of the 
same stimulus. 

Here is the case of a child who has his own conception 
of memory, characteristic of the realism of which we are 
speaking. 

ScHi (6) gave the word " memory " spontaneously. 
" What is memory ? — When you remember something. — 
How do you remember ? — It suddenly comes into the mind 
[revient dans notre dme). When you've been told something 
it comes into your mind, then it goes out and then it comes 
hack. — It goes out ? Where does it go to ? — Into the sky. 
— Do you really beheve that ? — Yes, I don't know, but it's 
what I think [ce que je crois)." 

The flight of the memory to the sky is undoubtedly 



46 CHILD'S CONCEPTION OF THE WORLD 

made up. But to "go out " and to " come back " are 
significant expressions. They must be interpreted literaUy, 
for, as we shall see later, Schi also describes dreams as 
" coming out " when he is asleep (see Chapter III, § 3 : 
" When you are not asleep it is inside the head. When you 
are asleep it comes out " . . . "it goes against the wall "). 
Schi must be credited with no exact idea as to the " how " 
of these phenomena, his words simply mean that he has 
not yet come to regard memories, words heard, or dreams 
as " internal." In deaUng with names we shall come on 
similar examples of children stating that the name is 
" in the room " (see the case of Roc, Chapter II, § 2). 

In short, in so far as thought is assimilated to voice it 
becomes actually a part of the objects thought of. To 
convince the reader of the truth of this conclusion we 
must simply refer him to the results of Chapter II. As 
to the internal aspect of thought which for the child 
consists essentially in the articulation of words, we shall 
now try to show that this also is material, and, what is 
especially curious, that it also is regarded as actually a 
part of the external world. 

As a matter of fact, the majority of children are not 
aware of this internal activity. To think is to speak and 
speaking just happens, but some children do note the 
existence of the voice and then, during the first stage, 
they assimilate this voice to " the air," the air being both 
internal and external, manifest both in breathing and in 
the atmosphere. 

Ron (7^) : " Can one see thought ? — Yes. — How ? — 
In front of you. — WTiere ? There (50 cms away) or right 
over there ? — It doesn't make any difference. The wind 
makes the grass move and you see it moving. That is thinking. 
— Is it in front of you or in the brain ? — Both, you can 
think anyhow. — Can one touch thought ? — Sometimes, 
when the thoughts are real." 

Brunn (11 ; II, backward and slow) : " Has thought 
any strength ? — No, because it is not alive. — Why is it not 
alive ? — It is air. — Where is the thought ? — In the air, 
outside." But Brunn also states that the thought is in 



THE NOTION OF THOUGHT 47 

ourselves ; memory, according to him, "is a thought. — 
Where is it ? — In the head." 

Ris (8| ; a girl) , whom we shall again meet with in 
connection with dreams (Chapter HI, § i) stated, without 
having been previously questioned about thought, that 
the dream is " in words. — And what are the words in ? 
— The voice — Where does the voice come from ? — The 
air." 

We shall find similar cases in the second stage (§ 3). 

In connection with dreams we shall also frequently 
find thought assimilated to the air, or the wind, or even 
" la fumee qui sort du ventre " (breathing). How are 
these facts to be interpreted ? At first sight one might 
attribute them to adult influence ; these children have 
been told of a soul or a mind which is invisible like the air, 
and they have concluded that thinking is by means of 
the air. We shall find cases in the second stage which 
must probably be so regarded. But the above cases seem 
to resist this interpretation, for these children will not 
admit that thought is internal ; it is outside as well as 
inside. Ron, an intelligent child, is particularly clear 
on this ; he confuses the thinking with the thing thought 
of. This is what makes him say that when you think of 
" things which are real " you can touch the thought. 
Moreover, a systematic adult influence cannot account 
for the many varieties of answer all relating to voice or 
breathing (the air, the wind, " la fumee du ventre," etc.). 

In short, thought when it consists of words is a part 
of the things named, and when it consists of voice it is 
assimilated to air, which is both internal and external. 
Thus in neither case is there a clear boundary between 
the self and the external world. 

§ 2. Looking and Seeing. — Before proceeding further 
with the notion of thought, it may be useful to consider 
briefly what seems to be a confirmation of the above 
interpretations. Does the same confusion between internal 
and external exist in children's conceptions of vision ? 
The subject has not yet been investigated, but in the 



48 CHILD'S CONCEPTION OF THE WORLD 

course of this research we have come by chance on certain 
facts worth mentioning here, because in themselves very 
significant. First comes a question quoted by Stanley 
Hall,^ coupled with an adult recollection of childhood. 

From a boy of 5 years old : " Papa, why don't out looks 
mix when they meet." 

From one of our collaborators : " When I was a little 
girl I used to wonder how it was that when two looks met 
they did not somewhere hit one another. I used to imagine 
the point to he half-way between the two people. I used also 
to wonder why it was one did not feel someone else's look, 
on the cheek for instance if they were looking at one's cheek." 

Next are three entirely spontaneous cases of confusion 
between vision and light, which were observed in answer 
to questions concerning the subject either of shadows or of 
dreams : — 

Pat (10) stated that a box makes a shadow " because 
the clouds (Pat beheves it to be the clouds which give hght 
when there is no sun) can't pass through it " {i.e. because 
the light cannot pass through the box). 

But immediately after Pat said of a portfolio that it 
made a shadow " because the clouds can't see that side. — 
Are to see and to give light the same thing ? — Yes. — Tell 
me the things which give light ? — The sun, the moon, the 
stars, the clouds and God. — Can you give hght ? — No . . . 
Yes. — How ? — With the eyes. — Why ? — Because if you 
hadn't eyes you wouldn't see properly." 

Due (6^) also stated that the light cannot see through 
a hand, alike confusing " seeing " with " giving Hght." 

Sci (6) said that dreams come " with the light." — " How ? 
— You are in the street. The lights (street-lamps) can see 
there . . . they see on the ground." " Tell me some things 
that give Ught. — Lights, candles, matches, thunder, fire, 
cigarettes. — Do eyes give Ught or not ? — Yes, they give 
light. — Do they give hght at night ? — No ? — Why not ? 
Because they are shut. — When they are open do they give 
light ? — Yes. — Do they give hght Hke lamps ? — Yes, a 
little bit." 

These last cases are interesting from their analogy with 
the theory of perception of Empedocles, who, as is well 

1 Stanley Hall, Pedagogical Seminary, Vol. X (1903), P- 346. 



THE NOTION OF THOUGHT 49 

known, explained vision as due to the light given out by 
an object meeting the Ught that emanates from the eye.^ 

The five cases point to the same conclusion : seeing is 
for these children partly outside the eye. It comes from 
the eye, it gives Ught and they are puzzled why they 
don't feel it. We do not know whether these bejiefs are 
general or not, but independently they point to the 
possibility of a thought which is at the same time both 
internal and external and thus confirm the interpretation 
given in the previous section. 

§ 3. The Second and Third Stages : Thinking is 
WITH THE Head. — The convictions of the first stage may 
be regarded as spontaneous since they are general and, 
in so far as this is so, cannot be due to adult suggestion. 
The convictions which characterise the second stage seem, 
on the other hand, to have been in part assimilated. It 
is hard to see how children quite alone could have dis- 
covered thinking to be with the head. However, it is 
interesting to note that only after the age of 7 or 8 (in 
a few cases 6) does the child ask questions of his own 
accord and assimilate what he is told. 

The characteristic of the second stage as opposed to 
the third is that thought, although situated in the head, 
remains material. Either the child continues simply to 
believe that it is voice or breath (first type) or it attempts 
to understand the words " brain," " intelligence," etc., 
and imagines balls, tubes, winds, etc. (second type). 

The following cases of the first type are of special interest 
in showing the persistence of phenomena of the first stage, 
despite progressive pressure from the adult. 

Falq (7:3): " You know what it means to think ? — 
You think of things you want to do. — What do you think 
with ? — With something. — What with ? — A little voice. — 
Where is it ? — There (he points to the forehead)." '.' Where 
does the httle voice come from ? — The head. — How does it 
happen. — By itself. — Does a horse think ? — Yes. — What 

^ See Arn. Raymond, Histoxre des Sciences exactes et naturelles dans 
I'antiquiti greco-romaine, p. 43. Blaiichard, 1924. 



50 CHILD'S CONCEPTION OF THE WORLD 

with ? — A little voice in the head. — And dogs ? — Yes. — 
Does the little voice say words ? — Yes. — Why ? Dogs 
can't talk. — They talk, then they listen. — Where ? — There 
(pointing to the forehead). — Why ? — There is something 
there. — What ? — A little hall." In the head is also " a 
little mouth. — Is it there now ? — Yes. — You really believe 
that ? — Yes." — A few moments later Falq speaks of 
memory. " Where is it ? — Inside there (showing his fore- 
head). — What is there ? — A little ball. — What is inside 
it ? — Thoughts. — What would one see inside if one looked ? 
Smoke. — Where does it come from ? — From the head." 
" Where does the smoke come from ? — From the thoughts. 
— Is thought smoke ? — Yes." " Why is thought inside the 
ball ? — It is a little air and smoke that has come. — Where 
from ? — From outside. — Where ? — The air outside and the 
smoke from the chimney. — Is the air ahve ? — No, it is 
because it is the air, and when you think of something it 
comes into the ball. When you've thought of something the 
thought comes with the air and the smoke." " How? — The 
thought makes the air and the smoke come in and they mix." 
" What is the smoke ? — Breath. — And the air ? — The 
same." " Is there breath in you ? — No . . . yes, when we 
breathe. — When you breathe what comes in and goes 
out ? — Wind. — Does breathing make air ? — Yes. — And 
smoke ? — No . . . yes, steam." 

This case resembles those of Ron, Ris and Brunn (§ i) ; 
particularly in the details concerning " the httle ball," 
etc. Falq shows exceedingly clearly how the air, smoke, 
breathing and voice are all regarded as of the same nature 
and interchangeable. Thus his spontaneous convictions 
continue directly in the line of the first stage, but in 
addition he has acquired certain notions, such as the 
ball in his forehead. The " httle mouth " inside the head 
recalls the child mentioned by Mile Malan who said, " it 
is the mouth behind there (inside the head) which talks 
to my mouth in front." 

Reyb (8 ; 7) : " What is thought ? — When you think of 
something. — What does that mean ? — You want to have it. 
— What do we think with ? — Our brains. — Who told you 
that ? — No one. . . . — Where did you learn the word ? — 
I've ahoays known it. — What is the brain ? — The tubes in 
the head. — What happens in these tubes ? — Something. — 



THE NOTION OF THOUGHT 51 

What ? — What you think. — Can one see thought ? — No. — 
And touch it ? — No. — What is it hke ? — What you hear. 
— Can you think with the ears stopped up ? — No. — With 
the eyes shut ? — No. — With the mouth shut ? — No. — 
Where do the tubes go and where do they start ? — From 
the ears. — And where do they go ? — To the mouth. — Who 
told you about the tubes in the head ? — No one. — Have 
you heard people speak of them ? — No." 

The adult influence is clearly marked. But there seems 
to be a spontaneous reaction when Reyb says that thought 
is " what you hear." 

Grand (8) stated when questioned on animism that the 
moon doesn't know anything because " it hasn't any ears." 
This gives an indication. Later : " You know what it 
is to think ? — Yes. — What do you think with ? — The 
head. — What is thought ? — It's white inside the head. — 
What do you think with ? — A little voice." 

Menn (12) also supposes one thinks " with the head. — 
Could one see thought, if one opened the head ? — No, it 
doesn't stay inside. — Could I see it ? — No. — Could I touch 
it ? — No, it is what talks. — Could one feel it ? — No. — Why 
not ? What is thought ? — Yes (you could feel it). It's 
our voice." 

The last case is striking, showing how the child, although 
placing thought in the head, has not yet solved the ques- 
tion of internal and external ; thought is " our voice," 
and the voice " doesn't stay inside." 

Similar cases were found in other districts of Switzer- 
land where Mile Perret continued the same research. 

Nic (10 ; 3, a girl) supposes one could not see thought 
because, " / should have to speak to it." 

E. KuN (7 ; 4) and his sister M. Kun (8 ; 4) were 
questioned one after the other without being given time 
to compare. Both stated that thought is in the head and 
that it is " white " and " round." M. Kun said it was " as 
big as a large apple " ; E. Kun that it was " little." This 
would seem to suggest traces of adult teaching on the 
brain. However, E. Kun at other times maintained that 
one thinks " with the mouth. — Where is the thought ? — 
In the middle of the mouth. — Can one see it ? — Yes. — 
Touch it ? — No. — Why not ? — Because it is too far away. 



52 CHILD'S CONCEPTION OF THE WORLD 

— Where ? — In the neck." The combination of spontane- 
ous convictions with instruction received is evident. 

In short, the value of these answers is proved by the 
continuity they all show between the first and second 
stages. At first we had the impression that the " voice " 
was a recollection of religious teaching (" the voice of 
conscience," etc.), but we gave up this interpretation in 
face of the generahty of the cases. 

None of the above children conceive thought as distinct 
from matter. This materialism is also characteristic of the 
following children, who under the pressure of adult concep- 
tions no longer identify thought with voice, and we shall 
see what strange deformations these conceptions undergo. 
In a certain sense these deformations are quite as interest- 
ing as the spontaneous reactions of the former children. 

Im (6) : Thought is " my intelligence." It is " what makes 
us think and try and find out. — Who told you that ? — / 
wasn't told, hut I know." This " intelligence " cannot be 
touched " because it is full of blood." 

Duss (9) identified thought with the " brain," which 
is as big " as a marble." Duss thought, however, that we 
dreamed " with the mouth." 

ZiMM (8 ; i) thinks with his " intelligence," but supposes 
that if the head was opened one could see and touch this 
intelligence. 

Kauf (8 ; 8, a girl) thinks with her memory. " Memory 
is something in the head which makes us think. — What do 
you think this memory is hke. — It is a little square of skin, 
rather oval, and inside there are stories {les histoires). — 
What are they like ? — They are written on the flesh. — 
What with ? — Pencil. — Who wrote them ? — God, before I 
was horn, he put them there." 

Evidently Kauf has made up the details. The tendency 
to believe " stories " to be innate may be regarded, how- 
ever, as spontaneous. This belief rests on the fact we 
have frequently observed that children have a complete 
amnesia as to the origins of their knowledge, however 
recent. For example, Im, as we have just seen, is con- 
vinced of having always known of " inteUigence." Reyb 



THE NOTION OF THOUGHT 53 

has always known he had a brain, etc. (see on this subject 
Judgment and Reason, Chapter IV, §1). It is, therefore, 
quite natural that when children come to consider the origin 
of their knowledge, they believe, like Kauf , that it is innate. 
We shall find the same thing with the origin of names. It 
has been suggested that this tendency of children to consider 
all they have been taught as originating in themselves had 
probably some influence on the psychical genesis of the 
Platonic doctrine of memory and similar theories. 

The following are cases of children who identify thought 
with the air, but evidently as the result of a more or less 
direct adult influence. 

Tann (8) thinks with his "mind." "What is the 
mind ? — It is someone who isn't like we are, who hasn't 
skin and hasn't hones, and who is like air which we can't 
see. After we're dead it goes away from our body. — Goes 
away ? — It goes away hut it stays, when it goes away it still 
stays. — What stays ? — It stays, but all the same it's in 
Heaven." Tann has not yet accepted as irresistible the 
dualism between internal and external. . . . 

Peret (ii ; 7) : We think " with the forehead. — What is 
inside it ? — Our mind." " Can one touch the mind ? — 
No. — Why not ? — You can't touch it. You can't because 
you can't see it. — Why not ? — It's air. — Why do you think 
it is air ? — Because you can't touch it." 

The difference is evident between these children and 
those at the end of § i (Ron, Brunn, and Ris, and also 
Falq § 3) who also confused thought with air, but whose 
reflections were original and showed no trace of words 
which they had learnt, whilst Tann and Peret, on the 
contrary, distort conceptions acquired from their environ- 
ment. These distortions are, however, always interesting 
since they show to what extent thought still remains 
material for children in the second stage. 

It cannot, therefore, be asserted that in the second stage 
thought has yet been distinguished from things. For 
the child either simply prolongs the first stage by identify- 
ing thought and voice or else he is more or less befogged 
by the mere words to which he clings persistently. In 



54 CHILD'S CONCEPTION OF THE WORLD 

neither case is thought differentiated from the things 
thought of, nor are words from the things named. There 
is simply conflict between the child's earlier convictions 
and the pressure of adult teaching, and this crisis is the 
only mark of progress in the second stage which other- 
wise brings the child no new solution. 

When is the point at which the child definitely dis- 
tinguishes thought from things, that is to say the point 
which marks the beginning of the " third stage " ? The 
technique we have followed so far cannot alone reveal so 
subtle a distinction. But used in conjunction with an 
examination on names and on dreams it provides very 
useful information. We therefore propose to use simul- 
taneously three tests as a means of revealing whether the 
third stage has yet been reached. 

Before concluding that a child distinguishes thought 
from things it must be proved, (i) that the child is able 
to situate thought in the head and to declare it invisible, 
intangible, etc., in short, immaterial and distinct from 
the " air " and " voice " ; (2) that the child is able to 
distinguish words and names from the things themselves ; 
(3) that the child is able to situate dreams in the head 
and to realise that if one opened the head the dreams 
could not be seen. (For points 2 and 3 see the technique 
outlined later). No one of these tests is alone sufficient, 
but their simultaneous use we consider adequate to prove 
the arrival of the third stage. 

The following example bears on points i and 3 : — 

Vise (11 ; i) : " Where is thought ? — In the head. — If 
someone opened your head, would he see your thought ? 
— No. — Could he touch it ? — No. — Feel it as if it was air ? 
— No . . . etc." Then : " What is a dream ? — It's a 
thought. — What do you dream with ? — With the head. — 
Are the eyes open or shut ? — Shut. — Where is the dream 
whilst you are dreaming ? — In the head. — Not in front of 
you ? — It's as if {/) you could see it. — Is there anything in 
front of you when you dream ? — No, nothing. — What is 
inside the head ? — Thoughts. — Is it the eyes which see 
something inside the head ? — No." 



THE NOTION OF THOUGHT 55 

The beginnings of the third stage may be placed approxi- 
mately at the age of 11, though some cases are found at 
10, and even at 9. But on the average the essential dis- 
coveries that thought is not matter and that it is distinct 
from the phenomena it deals with, are not made before 
the age of 11. 

§ 4. Words and Things. — The first two stages we have 
just studied are characterised by two confusions, quite 
distinct from each other though mutually contributory. 
First, there is the confusion between thought and body ; 
thought for the child, is an activity of the organism — the 
voice — it is thus a thing among things and its essential 
characteristic is material action, either on things or on 
persons in whom it is interested. Secondly, there is con- 
fusion between the sign and the thing signified, the 
thought and the thing thought of. From this point of 
view the child cannot distinguish a real house, for example, 
from the concept or mental image or name of the house. 
This point remains to be studied. 

In what way does this all-important differentiation 
reveal itself ? Which does the child first conceive as 
belonging to the thinking subject : the concept, the 
image or the word ? Certainly not the concept, and we 
cannot say at what age the notion of " idea " appears. 
It would make an interesting research to determine at 
what point such expressions as " a wrong idea," " to have 
an idea," etc., arise. From the preceding material all 
we may say is that thing and concept are still confused 
at the age of 7 by Ron (§ i), who maintains that we may 
" touch thought " when it is of " things that are real." 
It may, indeed, be observed that such a behef involves 
'' things that are not real," that is to say mental objects — 
what children name " stories " or things " said for fun." 
But the study of children's explanations on the subject 
of dreams shows that these mental objects are not regarded 
as images but as things, as made of air, or words, etc. 
The study of dreams will also furnish material as to 
when the child conceives the existence of mental 



56 CHILD'S CONCEPTION OF THE WORLD 

images and the question can, therefore, be better studied 
later. 

Concerning words, the theories of Sully, Compayre, and 
many others are well kno\yn, according to which it is 
maintained with much justice that to a child's eye every 
object seems to possess a necessary and absolute name, 
that is to say, one which is a part of the object's very 
nature. M. Luquet has shown that many children's 
drawings bear a title simply because of this pecuUarity : 
" The addition of a title has we consider no other meaning 
than that of expressing the name of the object, which is 
regarded by the designer as a property as inherent in its 
essence and as worthy of being reproduced as its visual 
characteristics." ' 

It will, therefore, be interesting to see at what age 
children can distinguish the word which designates it 
from the thing itself. To solve this problem we used two 
different techniques. The most important will be dis- 
cussed in the course of the next chapter, it deals with the 
origin and place of the names of things. The more direct, 
with which we shall deal now, is also the more question- 
able. It consists simply in asking a child if words " have 
strength," and if he falls into the trap to make him see 
his own fallacy. The disadvantage lies in the fact that 
there is a trap, and, if used alone, we should not have 
dared to draw any conclusions from this method. But 
it becomes interesting when combined with the methods 
of Chapter II. Three types of answer, corresponding to 
three successive stages, were found. In the first stage 
(up to the age of 7-8), the children made no distinctions 
between the word and the thing, and failed to understand 
the problem. In the second stage (7-1 1) the children 
understood the problem, but were unable to solve it 
systematically. During the third stage (after 10 or 11) 
the correct solution is given. 

The following examples illustrate the first stage : — 

^ Journal de Psychologic, 1922, p. 207. 



THE NOTION OF THOUGHT 57 

BouRG (6) : " Can a word have strength ? — No . . . 
yes. — Tell me a word which has strength. — Daddy, because 
he's a daddy and he's strong. — When 1 say ' cloud,' is the 
word ' cloud ' strong ? — Yes, because it gives light at night 
(the idea that clouds give light when there is no sun 
appears to be fairly general). — The word ' umbrella ' only 
the word, not the ' umbrella ' itself, is that strong ? — A 
bit, because someone might poke it in your eyes and that 
would kill you." 

Bow (6 ; 5) : " When I say ' umbrella ' I'm saying a 
word, or 'drawer' that's another word, there isn't really 
a drawer, they are just words. If I didn't say words to 
you, you wouldn't know what I wanted to say. Say a 
word. ..." 

" The word ' sun * is it strong ? — No, because it doesn't 
weigh much (the sun). — Is the word ' hit ' strong ? — No, 
fairly strong. — Why ? — Because sometimes it hurts. — Is it 
the word ' hit ' which is strong ? When I say the word 
' hit ' with the mouth, only the word, is it strong ? — No, 
because the mouth can't shout it. — Tell me a word which is 
strong. — When a horse runs away." 

Cam (6) : " If I say the word ' run,' I don't run. I say 
the word with the mouth. Is a word strong ? — Yes. — 
Why ? — Because you say it. — If I say the word ' jump ' is it 
strong ? — Yes, because children jump with a skipping-rope." 

The examples of the first stage obviously prove nothing 
by themselves. It may be that these children realise 
what a word is, but have no means of expressing the idea, 
for the word " word " implies for them the presence of 
the thing itself, in which case the experiment is of no 
value. It may also be that we were unable to make our- 
selves understood. In fact, the only means of proving 
that these children really confuse the word and the thing 
named is to show that older children manage to under- 
stand the problem, though without being able to solve it. 
This is proved by the examples of the second stage. 

The second stage is, therefore, paradoxical. On one 
hand, the child understands the problem and so dis- 
tinguishes the word from the thing named ; but, on the 
other, the distinction is not clear enough to save the 
child from the trap, into which he continually falls. 



58 CHILD'S CONCEPTION OF THE WORLD 
The following illustrate this stage : — 

Krug (6) : " Is a word strong ? — No, it can't do any- 
thing at all. — Are any words strong ? — Some words are 
strong. — Which ? — The word ' strong ' because you are say- 
ing it's strong. — Is the word ' elephant ' strong ? — Yes, 
because an elephant can carry people. — An elephant can, 
but simply the word ? — No, it isn't strong. — Why not ? — 
Because it doesn't do anything. — What ? — The word. — Is 
the word ' sleep ' strong ? — It is weak, because when you 
sleep, you're tired. — Is the word ' run ' strong ? — Yes, if 
the person's strong . . . it is strong the word ' run.' " 

AuD (8 ; 8) : " Are words strong ? — No, words are 
nothing at all. They aren't strong, you can't put anything 
on them. — Tell me a word. — ' Curtains.' It isn't strong, 
because if you put anything on it, it tears. A word isn't 
strong because you can't build up anything on top of it. — 
The word is when you speak. If you put anything on 
'paper' (the word) it would break. — Are there any words 
that are strong ? — No. — Tell me another word. — ' Um- 
brella-stand.' It is strong because you can put umbrellas 
in it. (Like ' curtains,' Aud chose this word because he 
could see it in the room.) — Is it in the word you put 
umbrellas ? — No. — Is the word strong ? — No. — And why 
isn't the word ' curtains ' strong ? — Because it tears so 
easily. — Is it the word which tears ? — (laughing) No, the 
curtains. — Is the word ' motor ' strong ? — The word isn't 
strong but the motor is (!) — Good, you've got it. Tell me 
another word that isn't strong ? — A cobweb because you'd 
have to put ever such light things not to break it. — Would the 
word break ? — No (laughing). — Scatter-brains, caught 
again ! — (laughing) Yes. — Tell me a word which isn't 
strong. — Trees. — Is that a word that isn't strong ? — Yes, 
because you couldn't put anything on it.— On what ? — On 
the trees." 

These cases are particulary striking since Krug and 
still more Aud fully realise the problem. Aud, for instance, 
says at the beginning that a word is " when you speak.'' 
He adds, however, spontaneously that the word " paper " 
is not strong, because paper tears. Clearly in such a case 
the confusion is more than verbal, and pertains to the 
systematic difficulty of distinguishing the sign from the 
thing signified, or thought from the thing thought of. 



THE NOTION OF THOUGHT 59 

The following is an example of the third stage, where a 
child gradually comes to realise the catch in the question, 
passing from the second to the following stage before our 
eyes. The answers it will be seen are entirely spontaneous, 
and it was they which led us to undertake this rapid 
survey. The child himself spoke of " thought " as of 
something immaterial and so suggested the idea of asking 
by way of control if thought had strength. The child's 
clear and entirely original reaction then gave the idea of 
setting the same question with regard to words and testing 
other younger children. 

Tie (10 ; 10) : " Has thought got strength ? — No, it has 
and then it hasn't. — Why hasn't it ? — It depends on what 
you are thinking of. — When has it strength ? — When you 
think of something strong. — If you think of this table, has 
it ? — Yes. — If you think of the lake, has it ? — No. — If you 
think of the wind, has it ? — Yes." (Tie had said a fdw 
minutes before that the water of the lake had no strength 
" because it was still," that the wind has strength, 
" because it can blow down houses," and that the table 
had, " because things can stand on it.") " Have words 
got strength ? — // depends on the word. — Which ones have 
strength ? — The word ' boxing ' . . . oh, no they haven't 
any strength (laughing). — Why did you think they had 
first ? — / was wrong. I was thinking it was the word that 
hit." 

This example is suggestive in itself. Tie's confusion 
between the word and the thing is, in fact, accompanied 
by an explicit and entirely spontaneous confusion between 
the thought and the objects thought of. The fact that 
Tie rid himself of the fallacy whilst being questioned only 
adds further value to the case, since it shows the difficulty 
which so keen and thoughtful a boy found in answering 
correctly. 

It is unnecessary to continue the inquiry, for the 
systematic study of " nominal reaUsm " to be undertaken 
in the next chapter will supply the further information 
lacking. These cases of which the most characteristic 
have been quoted, may in the meanwhile be taken to 



6o CHILD'S CONCEPTION OF THE WORLD 

prove that up to the age of lo-ii there is confusion 
between the sign and the thing signified, and as we saw 
earher, it is at about the age of ii that the idea of thought 
is dissociated from the idea of physical substance. We 
thus see that it is between lo and ii that the child becomes 
aware of thoughts or of words as distinct from the things 
of which he thinks. The two discoveries contribute to 
one another. 

In conclusion, until about ii, to think is to speak — 
either with the mouth or with a little voice situated in 
the head — and speaking consists in acting on things 
themselves by means of words, the words sharing the 
nature of the things named as well as of the voice pro- 
ducing them. 

All this involves as yet only matter and material action 
and the resulting realism is due to a perpetual confusion 
between subject and object, between internal and external. 



CHAPTER II 

NOMINAL REALISM 

The problem of names involves the same difficulties which 
came to light in studying the dualism that exists in the 
child's mind between internal and external. Are names 
in the subject or the object ? Are they signs or things ? 
Have they been discovered by observation or chosen 
without any objective reason ? The child's answers to 
these questions will reveal the extent and the exact 
significance of the reaUsm which was foreshadowed in 
the previous chapter. 

The problem of names probes to the very heart of the 
problem of thought, for to the child, to think means to 
speak. And if " word " is a somewhat vague concept to 
the younger children (at any rate before the age of 7 or 8 
that is, during the first stage as distinguished in section 4) 
what is meant by a " name " is on the contrary quite clear 
All the children tested knew the meaning of a " name " 
it was "to call something by" (pour appeler). It is 
therefore, perfectly natural to ask how names began 
where they are, why they are, what they are, etc. Also 
in certain cases it may be possible to add to the results 
thus obtained from conversation with children, confir- 
matory proof drawn from a study of their spontaneous 
questions. Indeed, every one must be familiar with the 
questions on names which characterise the most primitive 
stages of a child's questioning : What is that ? And a 
careful examination of these questions shows that in learn- 
ing the names of things the child at this stage beheves 
it is doing much more. It thinks it is reaching to the 

61 



62 CHILD'S CONCEPTION OF THE WORLD 

essence of the thing and discovering a real explanation. 
As soon as it knows the name, the problem no longer 
exists. Later, questions bearing on etymology also furnish 
useful material and show the same tendency towards a 
nominal realism. 

The following examples of two spontaneous remarks 
show this interest in names and especially the quasi- 
magical aspect sometimes taken by nominal realism. 

Ar (6 1) remarked during a building game : "And when 
there weren't any names. ..." 

Bo (6^) replied : " // there weren't any words it would he 
very awkward [on serait tres ennuye). You couldn't make 
anything. How could things have been made " (if there 
hadn't been names for them) ? The name thus seems to 
be a part of the essence of the thing and is even a 
necessary condition of its being made. 

In short, there is nothing artificial about this subject, 
it is on the contrary a natural centre of interest to children. 
The only difficulty is to find the right method of setting 
questions. The criterion will be as usual only to ask 
questions to which older children can give a correct 
solution and to which the youngest will give answers that 
improve progressively with age. 

The technique on which we decided after much experi- 
menting is briefly as follows. Eight types of question are 
asked in the following order : (i) Having made sure that 
the child knows what a name is, he is asked to give his 
own name and then " the name of that," " and of that " 
(as various objects are pointed to). " Very well then, 
what is a name ? " ; (2) he is next asked, " How did names 
begin ? How did the name of the sun begin ? " ; (3) the 
answer having been given he is then asked : " Well, but 
how did we know that that was what the sun was called ? " 
(4) " Where are names ? Where is the sun's name ? 
Where is the name of the lake ? " etc. ; (5) " Do things 
know their names ? Does the sun know its name ? Do 
the clouds know they are called clouds or not ? " etc. ; (6) 
" Has the sun always had its name or was it first without 



NOMINAL REALISM 63 

a name and did it only get its name afterwards ? " ; (7) 
" Why is the sun called ' sun ' ? Why have the Jura and 
the Sal^ve got those names " etc. ; and finally (8) " You 
are called Henry, your brother is Paul. — You might have 
been called Paul and he Henry, mightn't you ? — Well 
could the Jura have been called ' Sal^ve ' in the beginning 
and the Saleve ' Jura ? ' — And could the sun have been 
called 'moon ' and the moon ' sun ' ? " 

These questions will perhaps seem too subtle. But as 
all were correctly solved at the age of about 11 or 12 we 
are justified in questioning why they are solved no earlier. 

§ I. The Origin of Names. — In this section we shall 
deal with questions i, 2, 6 and 3. The first question, that 
of defining a name, is solved from the earliest age. Question 
2 gives rise to 3 groups of answers corresponding to three 
stages. During the first stage (5 to 6) children regard 
names as belonging to things and emanating from them. 
During the second stage (7, 8) names were invented by 
the makers of the things — God or the first men. In the 
case of the first men, the child generally supposes that the 
men who gave the names are those who made the things : 
the sun, the clouds, etc. (according to the artificialist 
connections to be studied in Part III). During the third 
stage, which appears about the age of 9 or 10 the child 
regards names as due to men of no particular identity, 
whilst the name is no longer identified with the idea of 
creation. 

The following are answers to question 2, illustrating 
the first stage where the name emanates directly from the 
thing. 

Lav (6^) says that names are " to call things by " — 
" How did name begin ? How did the sun get its name ? 
— / don't know. — Where did your name ' Jules ' come from ? 
Who gave it you ? — / don't know. — Your father ? — Yes. 
— And where did the name of the sun come from ? — The 
sky. — Is it the sun or the name of the sun which comes 
from the sky ? — The sun. — And where does its name come 
from ? — The sky. — Did someone give the sun its name or 
did it get it by itself ? — Some one gave it. — Who ? — The 



64 CHILD'S CONCEPTION OF THE WORLD 

sky." " Where did the Arve get its name ? — From the 
mountain. — Tell me, did people give it its name ? — No, 
etc." 

Pert (7) concerning the name of the Saleve : " How- 
did it get its name in the beginning ? — From a letter. — And 
where did the letter come from ? — The name. — And the 
name ? — From the mountain. — How did the name come 
from the mountain ? — By a letter. — Where did the letter 
come from ? — The mountain. — Clouds are called clouds, 
aren't they ? Where does the name of the clouds come 
from ? — The name ? That is the name. — Yes, but where 
does it come from ? — The clouds. — What do you mean when 
you say it comes from the clouds ? — It's the name they've 
got. — But how did the name happen ? How did it begin ? 
— By itself. — Yes, but where did the name come from ? — 
By itself." 

These children evidently distinguish the name from 
the thing named, but can only conceive the name as 
coming from the thing itself. The following case is inter- 
mediate between this stage and the next : — 

Stei (5|) : " Have you a name ? — Yes, Andre. — And 
that ? — A box. — And that ? — A pen, etc. — What are 
names for ? — They are what you can see when you look at 
things (Stei thus believes that one has only to look at a 
thing to ' see ' its name) — Why have you got a name ? — 
So as to know what Fm called. — Then what are names for ? — 
To knoiv what things are called. — How did the sun get its 
name in the beginning ? — / don't know. — What do you 
think ? — Because the sun made the name, the sun gave it in 
the beginning and so the sun is called sun. — And how did 
you get your name ? — We have to be christened. — Who 
christened you ? — The clergyman. — And did you take 
your name ? — The clergyman makes it for us. — How did 
the moon get its name ? — The moon ? The moon is called 
the moon. — How did it start being called moon ? — God 
called it that in the beginning. — How did the clouds start 
being called clouds ? — God started them by making them. — 
But are the clouds' names the same thing as the clouds ? — 
Yes, the same thing. — How did the Saleve first get its 
name ?-^By itself. — Did the Saleve give itself its name or 
did someone give it its name ? — // was always called Saleve." 
Stei thus comes back to the idea that the name emanates 
from the thing. 

During the second stage, this belief suggested in passing 



NOMINAL REALISM 65 

by Stei, becomes more and more pronounced ; the name 
comes from the person who made the thing and is thus 
from the beginning intimately connected with the thing 
itself. The following examples illustrate this : — 

Fran (9) : " You know what a name is ? — It's to know 
what the children are called. — Where do names come from ? 
How did they begin ? — Because God said, ' Now it's time 
to make children and then they must be called by names.' — 
What does that mean to ' be called by names ' ? — So as 
to know which children. — How did the table get its name 
in the beginning ? — God said, ' Tables must be made to eat 
from and people must know what they are for.' " 

Bab (8; 11) : " How did the sun get its name in the 
beginning ? — It was called that. — Who by ? — People. — 
What people ? — The first men, etc." 

All the answers are similar. For most of the children 
the sun, the sky, the mountains, the rivers, etc., were all 
made by the first men, but as this question is to be studied 
later (see Part III) it need not concern us here. 

Finally, during the third stage, names were not given by 
the makers of the things but by other men " savants," etCy 

Caud (9I) : "The sun was first called ' sun ' by a man 
and afterwards everybody knew. — Who was the man ? — 
A learned man {un savant). — What is a ' savant ' ? — A 
man who knows everything. — What did he do to find out 
the names ? WTiat would you do if you were a ' savant ' ? 
— / should try and think of a nayne. — How ? — In my head." 
Caud then went on to say that God made the sun, fire, 
etc., and that their names were given them by " savants." 

The evolution of the answers given to question 2 thus 
seems to show a gradual decrease in nominal realism. 
During the first stage the name is in the thing. During 
the second it comes from men but was made with the 
thing. It is thus still, so to speak, consubstantial with 
the thing and may possibly still be regarded as situated in 
the thing. During the third stage the name is at last 
regarded as due to the person who thinks about the thing. 

The study of question 6 entirely confirms these views. 
This question, it will be remembered, consists in asking 



66 CHILD'S CONCEPTION OF THE WORLD 

whether things have always had their names or whether 
they existed before they had names. This question it will 
be seen serves principally as a confirmatory proof for 
question 2. The two questions should therefore not be 
set immediately after one another or the child will simply 
draw his conclusions from what he has just said without 
considering the new problem. If however they are set in 
the order suggested, the child will treat question 6 as a 
fresh problem, and his answer will therefore check the 
value of his answers to question 2. 

In the great majority of cases the answers to questions 
2 and 6 were in perfect accord, that is to say children of 
the first and second stages maintained that things did not 
exist before having names, while the opposite was held by 
children of the third stage. Question 6, hke question 2, is 
thus not correctly solved before the age of 9 and 10. 

The following examples are of children who regard 
things as having always had names : — 

ZwA (9I) : " Which were first, things or names ? — 
Things. — Was the sun there before it had its name ? — 
No. — Why not ? — Because they didn't know what name to 
give it (would not have known ; but the use of the con- 
ditional is difficult for children). — But before God gave it its 
name was there a sun ? — No, because he wouldn't know 
where to make it com£ from. (The idea of non-existence 
always causes difficultj'^) . — But it was there already ? — 
No. — And were there clouds before they had names ? — 
No, because there wasn't anyone in the world (!) " We then 
tried a question outside the scheme, but naturally suggested 
by Zwa's metaphysics : " If a thing wasn't there could it 
have a name ? — No. — Long ago men used to believe there 
was a certain fish in the sea which they called a ' chimera ' 
but there wasn't really any such fish ... so can't a thing 
that doesn't exist have a name ? — No, because when God 
saw that the things didn't exist he wouldn't have given them 
names. — Have fairies got a name ? — Yes. — Then there are 
things that don't exist and have a name ? — Only fairies. — 
Why are there things that don't exist and yet have a 
name ? — God made up other names and they don't exist." 

This inability to dissociate names from things is very 
curious. The following observation, involving the same 



NOMINAL REALISM 67 

idea, we owe to a coUeague, Dr Naville. A little girl of 9 
asked : " Daddy, is there really God ? " The father 
answered that it wasn't very certain, to which the child 
retorted : " There must be really, because he has a name ! " 

Mart (8 ; 10) : " Has the sun always had its name ? — 
Yes, it always had its name when it was born. — How was 
the sun bom ? — Like us." Same answer for the clouds, 
the Sal^ve, etc. 

Pat (10) : " Before the sun had its name was it already 
there ? — Yes. — What was it called ? — The sun. — Yes, but 
before it was called sun was it there ? — No. " 

Bab (8 ; ii) whose answers to Question 2 have already 
been quoted : " Has the sun always had its name or was 
there a sun before it had a name ? — It's always had its 
name. — Who gave it its name ? — People [des Messieurs). — 
And before people gave it its name was it there ? — Yes. — 
What was it called ? — Sun. — Who gave it its name ? — 
People." 

The following examples are- of children who have come 
to regard things as existing before they had names. These 
children are 9 or 10 years old and almost all belong to the 
third stage as previously distinguished. 

Mey (10) : " Tell me, did the sun exist before it had a 
name ? — Yes, men gave it its name. — And were there clouds 
before they had names ? — Of course." 

Veil (9I) : " Did the sun exist before it had a name ? — 
It was already there. — What was it called then ? — It hadn't 
yet got a name." 

We must now consider question 3. Since nominal 
reahsm is so firmly rooted in children's minds up to the 
age of 9 or 10 that the existence of things before they have 
names is regarded as impossible, question 3, which concerns 
how we come to know these names will strike them as 
perfectly natural. Thanks to the kindness of MUes 
Audemars and Lafendel, the heads of the Maison des Petits 
(the training school attached to the Institut Jean Jacques 
Rousseau at Geneva), we know that children themselves 
sometimes ask this question spontaneously concerning the 
origins of writing, a subject they question with interest. 
In the cases where the child maintains that the name 



68 CHILD'S CONCEPTION OF THE WORLD 

emanates from the thing or that all objects were christened 
by God, the question of how we then come to know that 
such was the name of the sun, etc., follows of necessity. 
Question 3 need not therefore be regarded as suggestive 
because it presupposes nominal reahsm, but rather as 
being the natural sequence of question 2. Moreover, as 
with question 2 it is not correctly solved until the age of 
9 or 10. 

The stages revealed by means of this question are as 
follows. During a first stage (5-6) the child supposes that 
we came to know the names of things simply by looking 
at them. We need only to look at the sun to know it is 
called " sun." During the second stage {7-8) the child 
claims that God told us the names of things. During a 
third stage (after 9-10) the child finally realises that names 
have been handed down from father to son since the time 
they were invented. 

It will be seen at once that these stages correspond, both 
logically and chronologically with the three stages dis- 
tinguished for question 2, though the detail does not 
necessarily always correspond. The following are examples 
of the first stage : that is, we know the sun is called " sun " 
by looking at it. 

Stei (5I), it will be remembered, regarded names as 
coming either from the things themselves or from God: 
" How did people know what was the sun's name ? — / don't 
know, because they saw it. — How did you know that was its 
name ? — / saw it. My mother told me. — And how did your 
mother know its name ? — Because she saw the sun. . . . 
We learn it at school." The name of the Saleve comes from 
the Saleve itself according to Stei's account. " How did 
people know it was called Saleve ? — Because it's a big 
mountain. — And is that why it is called Saleve ? — My 
mother told me its name. — And how did your mother know ? 
— / don't know. At school. — And how did the masters of 
the school know it was called Saleve ? — Because they had 
seen the Saleve." As to the moon, " people knew it was called 
moon because they had seen it." 

Fert (7), as quoted earlier, said that the name of the 
Saleve came " from the mountain. — When the first men 



NOMINAL REALISM 69 

came, how did they know it was called Sal^ve ? — Because 
it slopes. — How did they know the sun's name ? — Because 
it's bright. — But where does the name come from ? — 
By itself." 

Fran (9) has already said that names come from God : 
" Where does the name of the sun come from ? — From 
God. — And how did we know that the sun is called ' sun ' ? 
— Because it's in the sky. It's not on the earth. It gives us 
light in the sky. — Yes, but how did we know ? — Because 
it's a great hall. It has rays. We knew it was called ' sun.' 
— But how did we know its name was ' sun ' ? We might 
have called it something else. — Because it gives us light. — 
How did the first men know it was called * sun ' and not 
something else ? — Because the big ball is yellow and the rays 
are yellow, and then they just said it was the sun, and it was 
the sun. (This would seen as if Fran was already suggest- 
ing the arbitrary character of names but what follows 
shows this to be merely appearance or at any rate that 
Fran draws no conclusions from the discovery). — Who 
gave the sun it's name ? — God said it was to be the sun. — 
Then how did the first men know it was to be called sun ? 
— Becauu it's up in the air. It's high up. — But when I 
look at you I can't see what your name is. You've told 
me you are called Albert. How did the first men know 
the name of the sun ? — Because they had seen the sun. — 
Did God tell men or did they find it out for themselves ? 
— They found it out." 

Lav (6^) who, as we saw, believes the name to emanate 
from the thing, is convinced of having found out the names 
of the sun, etc., by himself, but not difficult names, like 
that of the Saleve : " You found out the name of the sun 
by yourself ? — Yes. — And the Saleve ? How did you 
know it was called Saleve ? Did you find that out by 
yourself or did somebody tell you ? — / was told. — And the 
sun ? — By myself. — And the name of the Arve ? — By 
myself. . . . — And the clouds ? — / was told. — And the name 
of the sky ? — / was told that too. — And the name of the 
moon ? — By myself. — And did your little sister find it out 
by herself or was she told ? — She found it out by herself." 

These answers are very suggestive, for although they 
press nominal reahsm to its utmost limit they are not 
absurd. For indeed, although children may suppose they 
need only to look at a thing to know its name, it does not 
in the least follow that they regard the name as in some 



70 CHILD'S CONCEPTION OF THE WORLD 

way written on the thing. It means rather that for these 
children the name is an essential part of the thing ; the 
name Sal^ve impUes a sloping mountain, the name sun 
implies a yellow ball that shines and has rays, etc. But 
it must also be added that for these children the essence 
of the thing is not a concept but the thing itself. Complete 
confusion exists between thought and the things thought 
of. The name is therefore in the object, not as a label, 
attached to it but as an invisible quality of the object. 
To be accurate we should not therefore say that the name 
'' sun " implies a yellow ball, etc., but that the yellow ball 
which is the sun really implies and contains the name 
" sun." 

This phenomenon is analogous to the " intellectual 
reahsm " which M. Luquet has so clearly demonstrated 
in children's drawings. They draw what they know about 
an object at the expense of what they see, but they think 
they are drawing exactly what they see. 

We must now pass to the second stage (average age 
7-8). In this stage the names of things are not to be found 
merely by looking at them, but have been told us by God. 

ZwA (9I) : " How did the first men know that the sun 
was called sun ? — Because God told Noah. — And how did 
they know that the Sal^ve was called ' Sal^ve ' ? — God told 
Noah and he told it all to the learned men (savants). — But 
did Noah hve in this country ? — Yes. — If a little negro 
child who had never seen Geneva or the Sal^ve was to 
come here would he know its name ? — No. — Why not ? — 
Because he hadn't ever seen Geneva. — And would he know 
the name of the sun when he looked at it ? — Yes. — Why ? 
— Because he had seen it in his own country. — But would he 
know it was called ' sun ' ? — Yes, because he'd remember. — 
But would someone who had never seen the sun know its 
name when he looked at it ? — No." 

The child's conviction has only to be shaken and it will 
revert to the solutions of the first stage. The following 
is another example of a child hesitating in this way : — 

Mart (8 ; 10) : " How do people know what the sun 
is called ? — Because they've been told. — Who by ? — God 



NOMINAL REALISM 71 

tells us-. — Does Ged tell us things ? — No. — How do we 
know it then ? — We see it. — How do we see what the sun 
is called ? — We see it. — What do we see ? — The sun. — 
But how do we know its name ? — We see it. — What do 
we see ? — Its name. — Where do we see its name ? — When 
it is fine weather. — How do we know the name for clouds ? 
— Because it is had weather. — But how do we know that 
is their name ? — Because we've seen them. — What. — The 
clouds, etc." 

Finally certain children, to escape from the difficulty, 
find the solution ready-made in current theology, and 
then do not hesitate to ascribe the origin of language to 
literal inspiration, after the manner of de Bonald : — 

Pat (10) : " And who gave the sun its name ? — God. — 
And how did we know its name ? — God put it into men's 
heads. — If God had not given it that name could they have 
given it another ? — Yes, they could. — They knew it was 
called the sun ? — No. — And the names of the fishes ? — 
God put the names into men's heads." 

Here is an example of the third stage (9-10) : — 

Mey (10) : " And then how did we know the names ? — 
They have come down from father to son." It will be re- 
membered that for Mey names were invented by men 
distinctly after the origin of things. 

The study of question 3 has evidently laid bare certain 
notions ready made or indirectly due to adult influence 
as well as many spontaneous ideas. The answers of the 
first stage however are entirely original and the succession 
of the three stages follows a regular course, showing 
clearly that it is in part due to the child's own reflection. 
In fact it is not until the child is sufficiently developed to 
give up the convictions of the first stage that he seeks 
anything else and calls in religious ideas he has learned 
from others. Moreover, the child's rejection of the idea of 
a language directly due to God in favour of the much 
simpler solutions found in the third stage is also quite 
spontaneous. 

§ 2. The Place of Names. — The youngest children 
believed it only necessary to see the sun to know that it 



72 CHILD'S CONCEPTION OF THE WORLD 

was called " sun." The natural question to ask then is 
" where is the name ? " This constitutes question 4. The 
correct way to ask it is to remind the child that a thing 
and its name are not the same, and then to add, " very 
well, where is the name ? 

Coming after question 3, it is not absurd. It may seem 
much too difficult, but like the three preceding it is solved 
at about the age of 9 or 10 without any suggestion on our 
part. Moreover, it is not solved once and for all at a given 
age as if it were a question that had long remained un- 
intelligible and then suddenly become clear following on 
discoveries which alone had suggested a solution. On the 
contrary, from the most primitive to the correct answers 
there is a gradual development. This is what really justihes 
the question. Further, within each stage there is com- 
plete convergence of the individual answers. 

Three stages were found. During the first (5-6) the 
names of things are in the things ; during the second 
(7-8), the names of things are everywhere, or nowhere, 
which as we shall see amounts to the same thing ; and 
finally, during the third stage (9-10), names are regarded 
as in the voice, then in the head and then in thought 
itself. This classification involves no false symmetry. 
The average age of the children composing each stage 
gives the following results : 6 as the age for the first 
stage, 7-: for the second, and gl for the third. 

The following examples are of the first stage. The name 
is in the thing. The first case is very subtle and reveals 
immediately the nature of the conviction. 

Fekt (7). as we have seen considers that names come 
from the things themselves and that it is only necessary 
to see a thing to know its name. After the examination 
previously quoted he again maintained that the name of 
the sun comes " by itself." " Do you think it made 
itself . . . — /m M(? SM«."— A moment later : " Where is the 
name of the sun ? — Inside.- -Wh'dii ? — Inside the sun.— 
Where is the name of the Saleve ?— Inside. — What ?-— 
Inside the Saleve.- -Where is the name of the clouds ?- - 
Inside them too. — Where is your name ?...— ... Now look 



NOMINAL REALISM 73 

here, Pert old chap, tell me where your name is ? — / was 
given it. — Yes but where is your name ? — It's written down. 
— Where ? — In the hook. — Where is the name of the 
Jura ? — In the Jura. — How is the name of the sun inside 
the sun ? What do you mean ? — Because it's hot (!) — 
If we could open the sun should we see the name ? — 
No. — And why is the name of the Saleve inside the Saleve ? 
— Because there are stones. — And why is the name of the 
clouds inside the clouds ? — Because they are grey. — And 
where is the name of the lake ? — On it. — Why ? — Because 
it isn't in it. — Why not ? — Because there's water there. — 
Why is the name on the lake ? — Because it can't go in, it 
doesn't go into it. — But is the word ' lake ' on it ? What 
does that mean ? Is it written ? — No. — Why is it on it ? 
— Because it can't go into it. — Is it on top of it then ? — 
No. — Where is it ? — It isn't anywhere." 

It is quite clear what Fert wanted to say. The word 
is in the thing, because it is part of the essence of the thing. 
It is not written ; it is in the sun, because the sun is hot, 
in the Saleve because the Saleve is stony, etc. There is 
thus nominal realism in the sense defined in the preceding 
paragraph, namely that the thing includes its name in its 
intrinsic character although it is invisible. But when he 
comes to the lake Fert slips into a more material realism : 
he shrinks from placing the name in the lake. This 
hesitation is extremely suggestive and shows better than 
anything else the strength of the child's realism. But 
under the sway of the absurdities into which he was led, 
Fert ends by having recourse to the hypothesis which 
marks the second stage and declares that the name is not 
in the thing. But it was only our questions that liberated 
this conviction and it is still so unstable that Fert will 
be seen to reject it directly after. Just as Fert's last 
words were spoken the bell for recreation rang and he 
went out to play for 20 minutes, after which the examination 
was continued as follows : — 

" Where is the word ' lake ' ? — It is inside it because 
of the water " (!) Fert thus assimilates the case of the 
lake to that of the sun, the clouds, etc. . . . We therefore 
tried a contrary suggestion : " How is it that people give 



74 CHILD'S CONCEPTION OF THE WORLD 

the sun a name and then the name goes into the sun ? — 
(Laughing) No, it's only we who know it. — Then where is 
the name of the sun ? — It isn't anywhere. — Where would 
it be if it had a place ? — It's we who know it. — Where is 
the name when we think of it ? — In the sun, when we think 
of the sun. — But where is the name when we think of it ? 
— In ike sun. — Where is the thought when we think ? — 
It's what we think. — Where is what we think ? — It doesn't 
matter what (he confuses the object and the thought). — 
What do we think with ? — When we remember. . . . With 
the memory. — Where is the memory ? — , . . — In the feet ? 
— No. — Where ? — . . . — In the head ? . . . — Yes (very hesi- 
tating). — And where are names ? When you think of the 
name of the sun, where is the name of the sun ? — It's we 
who know it. — Yes, but where is it ? — It isn't anywhere. — 
Is it in the head ? — No. — Why not ? — Because it's we who 
are thinking (fresh confusion between object and thought : 
the moment we think of the sun, it is no longer in our head). 
— But if the name was in the head, couldn't we think of 
it ? — Yes (hesitation). — Then the name is in the head ? — 
In the head (without any conviction). — Aren't you sure ? — 
No. — Why do you think it is not in the head ? — Because 
it is in the sun." 

The interest of this quotation is in Fert's determined 
resistance to our increasingly pressing suggestions and 
his final confession of a resdism that is still as strong as 
ever : for us to think of the sun means that the name of 
the sun must be "in the sun." 

The other examples are all of the same type : — 

Horn (5 ; 3) says that a name is " whai we use. When 
we want to say something, or call someone. — Where is the 
name of the sun ? — High up in the sky. — Where ? — In the 
sun. — Where is your name ? — There (indicating the 
thorax)." Horn then goes on to say that the name of 
the Sal^ve is in the Sal^ve " because you can't walk on it. — 
On what ? — On the name." After which Horn passes to 
answers of a later stage. 

Mart (8 ; 10) : " Where is the name of the sun ? — In 
the sky. — Is it the sun or the name of the sun that is in the 
sky ? — The name. — Why in the sky ? — Because it is in the 
sky. . . ." 

Pat (10) is on the borderline between this stage and 
the next : " Where are names ? — In the head. — Where is 



NOMINAL REALISM 75 

the name of the sun ? — In its head." Pat had already 
stated a few moments earher that the sun knew its name. 
We attempted to undeceive him : "It doesn't itself know 
its name ? — No, the sun doesn't know. — Then where is it's 
name ? — In my head (third stage). — And where is the name 
of the moon ? — In its head. — And the name of the sun ? — 
In its head." (!) 

In short, the study of the first stage fully bears out what 
was stated in the preceding section, that in the primitive 
stage the name of a thing is a part of the thing. But this 
does not mean that it is inscribed on or materially re- 
presented in the thing. It is part of the essence of the 
thing. It is a characteristic of the thing, though not a 
psychic one, for the child does not regard the voice as 
immaterial, although it is invisible. 

During the second stage (7-8) the name becomes dis- 
sociated from the thing, but is not yet localised in the 
thinking subject. It is strictly speaking everywhere or 
rather wherever it has been spoken. It is "in the air." 
It surrounds whoever uses it. Other children speak of it 
as " nowhere," as Fert suggested for a brief moment. 
This statement does not however mean that the name is 
immaterial and localised in the mind, for the children who 
reach this conclusion (third stage) start by saying that the 
name is in the head or in the voice. Thus " nowhere " 
simply means that the name is no longer localised in the 
thing. It is still a primitive answer and only found 
amongst children stiU to some extent in the first stage. 

Roc (6|, a girl) is a typical case of this second stage : 
" Now tell me, where is the name of the sun ? — In the 
sky. — The sun is in the sky. But where is the name ? — 
In the sky. — Where ? — Everywhere. — Where ? — In all the 
houses. — Is the name of the sun here ? — Yes. — Where ? — 
In schools and in the class-rooms. — Whereabouts in the class- 
rooms ? — Everywhere. — Is it in this room ? — Yes. — Where 
else ? — In the corners. — Where else ? — In all the little 
corners (pointing to the surrounding air). — Where is the 
name of the Sal^ve ? — In the houses. — Where is it in this 
house ? — In the class-rooms. — Is it here ? — Yes. — Where ? 
— There (looking up at the ceihng). — Where ? — In the 



76 CHILD'S CONCEPTION OF THE WORLD 

empty space (dans I'espace). — What is the empty space ? 
— It's made up of little paths (des petits chemins pour 
passer^) . — Can you see the name of the Sal^ve ? — No. — 
Can you touch it ? — No. — Hear it ? — No." Same answers 
for the Rhone, an exercise-book, etc. " And where is 
your name ? — In the house. — Which house ? — In all the 
houses which know it. — Is it here in this house ? — Yes. — 
Why ? — Because we say it. — Then where is it ? — In the 
school. — Where ? — In the corners. — You see that house 
over there (pointing out of the window) is your name 
there ? — No. — Why not ? — Because the people there don't 
know it. — If someone were to come in here, would they 
know that your name was here ? — No. — Could they 
know ? — // someone said it. — Since when has your name 
been in this room ? — To-day, just now. — How long will 
it stay here ? — Till this evening. — Why ? — Because every- 
one goes away then. — We shall be going at 4 o'clock. Till 
when will it be here ? — Till 4 o'clock. — Why ? — Because I 
shall he here. — And suppose you go but we stay, will your 
name still be here ? — Yes, it'll stay. — Till when ? — Until 
you go. — Where will your name be when we're gone ? — 
With other people. — Who ? — People who also know it. — 
How does it get to the other people ? — Through the window. 
— And will your name be in the house I go to ? — Yes. 
Where ? — In the kitchen (Roc lives in the kitchen at home). 
— Where ? — In the little corners. — Isn't your name in our 
heads ? — Yes. — Why ? — Because I said it (my name). — 
Isn't it in the little corners then ? — Yes, it is." 

Roc's idea is quite clear despite its paradoxical appear- 
ance. The name is no longer in the thing but is associated 
with the people who know it. This marks a great progress 
from the first stage. But it is not yet within us, it is 
localised in the voice, wherever it has been spoken it 
remains in the air surrounding us. When Roc says that 
the name follows us, that it goes out of the window, etc., 
she is probably nat stating anything she believes literally. 
The reason she cannot imagine any other way in which 
verbal knowledge accompanies us is simply that she has 
never considered the question. This case thus shows : 
(i) that the name is connected with the thinking subject 

^ Note in the French the spontaneous etymology in associating 
" espace " and "passer." 



NOMINAL REALISM 77 

and not with the object, but (2) that the name is external 
to the subject and localised in his voice, that is to say both 
in the surrounding air and in the mouth. The last part 
of the examination brought this out very clearly ; Roc 
wanted to admit, in accordance with our suggestion, that 
her name was in the head but refused as yet to give up 
the idea that it was " in the httle comers." 

Stei (5^) told us spontaneously that the name of the 
moon " isn't in the moon. — Where is it ? — It hasn't got a 
place. — What does that mean ? — It means it isn't in the 
moon. — Then where is it ? — Nowhere. — But when you say 
it where is it ? — With the moon (return to first stage). — And 
where is your name ? — With me. — And mine ? — With you. 
— But when I know your name where is it ? — With you 
when you know it. — And the name of the moon ? — With 
it. — And when we know it ? — With us. — Where is it when 
it's with us ? — Everywhere. — Where's that ? — In the voice." 

This second stage is interesting from the point of view 
of the dualism of internal and external, and strikingly 
confirms what we already found with regard to thought, 
that it is both in us and in the surrounding air. It is true 
that in the case of words and names this is in a sense a 
legitimate view, since actually a word must cross the air 
before reaching the hearer's ear. 

But a fundamental difference separates our view from 
that of the child in the second stage ; for though he 
admits that names are in the air he ignores completely 
the fact that their origin lies within ourselves. The process 
is centripetal and not centrifugal. The name comes from 
the object and appears in the voice ; true it is then driven 
forth again by the voice but in no case does it spring 
directly from an internal " thought." 

The third stage on the contrary is characterised by this 
discovery that names are in ourselves and come from 
within us. The child asserts outright that they are " in 
the head." This stage occurs at the age of 9 or 10. 

It is not however always easy to distinguish the third 
from the second stage. The following three cases may be 



78 CHILD'S CONCEPTION OF THE WORLD 

regarded as intermediary : names are localised both in 
the mouth and in the voice. 

Bab (8 ; ii) : " ^\^le^e is the name of the sim ? — Over 
there. — Where ? — By the mountain. — Is it the sun or the 
name of the sun which is there ? — The sun. — And where 
is the name of the sun ? — / don't know. . . . Nowhere. — 
When we speak of it where is the sun's name ? — Over 
there by the mountain. — Is the name or the sun over there ? 
— The sun. — When we speak where is the name of the 
sun ? — In the mouth. — And where is the name of the 
Sal^ve ? — In the mouth. — And the name of the lake ? — 
In the mouth." 

Mey (io) : " Where is the name of the sun ? — In the 
voice when you say it." 

Caud (9^) : " Where is the word ' Sal^ve ' ? — Every- 
where. — What do you mean ? Is it in this room ? — Yes. 
— Why ? — Because we speak of it. — Where is it in the room ? 
— In our heads. — Is it in our heads or in the room ? — It 
is in our heads and in the room." 

The only way to interpret these answers is to refer to 
the context. As we have already seen (§ i) Bab regards 
names as contemporary with things and made with them, 
whilst the explanations of Caud and Mey are always much 
more developed. We are therefore justified in placing 
Mey and Caud in the third stage whilst Bab, for whom 
names come from the things into the voice, is still in the 
second stage. Caud however is still very near the second 
stage and should strictly be regarded as intermediary. 

The following case belongs definitely to the third stage : — 

Bu?= (10) : " Where are names ? The name of the sun 
for instance ? — In the head. — Whose head ? — Ours, every 
one's except those who don't know it." 

In short, it is evident that question 4 gives rise to 
answers which develop steadily with age and which com- 
pletely confirm the results obtained by the previous 
questions. Question 5 must next be considered, that is, 
whether things know their names : Does the sun know it 
is called sun ? etc. It may certainly be questioned 
whether there is not an element of animism in the nominal 



NOMINAL REALISM 79 

realism of the first stages. In other words is it partly 
because the thing knows its name that the name is situated 
in the thing ? The case of Pat is clear on this point : he 
holds, as we have seen, that names are " in the heads " of 
the things, that is to say that things know their names. 
We found however no constant relation between nominal 
realism and the attribution of consciousness to things. 
Fert, for example, localises names in things, but holds that 
they do not know their names, etc. 

Question 5, however, yielded some interesting results. 
Four types of answer were found. First, there are a few 
children who suppose everything to be aware of its name : — 

Fran (9) : " Does a fish know its name ? — Yes, because 
it can he called a salmon or a trout. — Does a fly know its 
name ? — Yes, because we can call it a fly or a bee or a wasp." 
Similar answers for a stone, a table, etc. " Does a pencil 
know its name ? — Yes. — How ? — Because it is written on 
it where it is made. — Does it know it is black ? — No. — 
Does it know it is long ? — No. — But it knows it has got a 
name ? — Yes, because there were people who said that it should 
he a pencil." Clouds cannot see us, " because they haven't 
any eyes," but they know their names " because they know 
they are called clouds, etc." 

Secondly, there are a much greater and more interesting 
number of children (more interesting since one is less 
inclined to think they are romancing) who confine this 
knowledge solely to bodies that move : — 

Mart (8 ; 10) : " Does a dog know its name ? — Yes. — 
Does a fish know it is called a fish ? — Of course. — Does the 
sun know its name ? — Yes, because it knows it's got its 
name. — Do clouds know they are called clouds ? — Yes, 
because they've got a name and they know their name. — Do 
matches know they are called matches ? — No, Yes. — Yes 
or no ? — No, because they are not alive. — Does the moon 
know its name ? — Yes. — Why ? — Because it's alive, it 
moves (!) — Does the wind know its name ? — Yes. — Why ? 
— Because it makes it windy. — Does the Rhone know its 
name ? — Yes, because it is it that is the Rhone (!). — Is it 
ahve ? — Yes, because it flows into the Arve. — Does the lake 
know its name ? — Yes, because it moves. — Does it know it 
moves ? — Yes, because it is it that moves (!)." 



8o CHILD'S CONCEPTION OF THE WORLD 

Thirdly, there are those children who consider that only 
animals and plants or animals alone, know their names. 
Even children of advanced intelligence, Uke Mey, will 
maintain that perhaps trees know their names. 

Mey (io) : " Does a dog know its name ? — Yes. — A 
fish ? — Ye&, because if we know we belong to the world [i.e. 
that we are men) fish ought to know it too. — And does the 
sun know it is called the sun ? — No. — Why not ? — Because 
it isn't alive. — ^^Does the wind know its name ? — No. — Do 
the trees know that is what they are called 1—^No, because 
we couldn't make them know it. — Why not ? — They wouldn't 
understand. — Then they don't know their name? — Perhaps 
they may, perhaps not. — Why ' perhaps not ' ? — Trees can't 
learn things. — And why ' perhaps they may ' ? — They see 
other trees besides themselves and think they are the same 
thing. — And what does that do ? — They know they are oaks 
but they can't see it." 

Finally, there are children who refuse a knowledge of 
names to everything. The average age of this group was 
9-10. The children who associated knowledge of name 
with movement (like Mart) had an average age of 7. This 
evolution agrees closely with what wiU be found later 
(Part II) in the study of children's animism. 

§ 3. The Intrinsic Value of Names. — So far we have 
studied names under what might be called their onto- 
logical aspect, that is, their existence, place, and origin. 
There remains the logical aspect ; are names merely signs 
or have they an intrinsic logical value ? The two problems 
are strictly dependent on one another and it is evident 
that names so far as they are situated in things must be 
regarded as absolute. But though the ontological reaUsm 
and the logical realism of names may have the same roots, 
their persistence may perhaps differ. This — -that logical 
reaUsm lasts much longer than ontological — is precisely 
what we shall hope to show. Questions 7 and 8 are not 
in fact solved before the age of 10 and 11 or 12 and even 
those children who localise the name in the head and who 
believe in the recent origin of names, continue to hold that 
names imply not the thing but the idea of the thing ; for 



NOMINAL REALISM 8i 

example, the sun is called thus because it is bright and 
round, etc. 

To begin with question 8 — could names be changed ? 
Two stages were distinguished. Before the age of lo the 
children said not, after an average age of lo they agreed 
that they could. Between the two were several inter- 
mediate cases. The following examples are of the first 
stage : — 

Fert (7) : " Are you called Albert ? — Yes. — Could you 
have been called Henry ? Would it have been just the 
same ? — No. — Could the Saleve have been called ' Jura ' 
and the Jura ' Saleve ' ? — No. — Why not ? — Because they 
are not the same thing. — And could the moon have been 
called ' sun ' and the sun ' moon ' ? — No. — Why not ? — 
Because the sun makes it warm and the moon gives light." 

Roc (6|) admits that God might have changed the 
names : " Would they have been right then or wrong ? — 
Wrong. — Why ? — Because the moon must he the moon and 
not the sun and the sun must he the sun ! " 

Fran (9) : " Could the sun have been given another 
name ? — No. — Why not ? — Because it's nothing else hut 
the sun, it couldn't have another name." 

ZwA (9^) knows some German and might have been 
expected to understand the relative nature of names. 
But he did not : " Could names be changed and things 
given other names ? You are called Louis, could you have 
been called Charles ? — Yes. — Could this chair have been 
called ' Stuhl ' ? — Yes, because it's a German word. — Why 
are there other names in German ? Why don't they talk 
hke we do ? — Because they can speak a different way. — 
Have things got more than one name ? — Yes. — Who gave 
them the German names ? — God and the Germans. — You 
say names could be changed. Could the sun have been 
called ' moon ' and the moon ' sun ' ? — No. — Why not ? — 
Because the sun shines brighter than the moon. — Have you 
a brother ? — Gilbert. — Could Gilbert have been called 
' Jules ' ? — Yes. — Well, couldn't the sun have been called 
' moon ' ? — No. — Why not ? — Because the sun can't change, 
it can't become smaller. — But if every one had called the 
sun ' moon,' and the moon ' sun,' would we have known 
it was wrong ? — Yes, because the sun is always bigger, it 
always stays like it is and so does the moon. — Yes, but the 
sun isn't changed, only its name. Could it have been 



82 CHILD'S CONCEPTION OF THE WORLD 

called . . . etc. ? — No. — How would one know it was 
wrong ? — Because the moon rises in the evening, and the 
sun in the day." 

Bus (lo) says that nothing could be changed : " because 
they wanted to give the sun the name of sun. — If in the 
beginning the first men had given different names, would 
we have seen by now that they were wrong or would we 
never have known ? — We should have seen. — How ? — 
Because the sun is hot and the moon is not hot." 

The following is an intermediate case in which names 
might have been changed but " it wouldn't have been so 
good " : — 

Dup (7|, a girl, very forward) : " Could the sun have 
been called ' stoll ' ? — Yes. — No one would have noticed 
anything ? — No. — Could the table have been called 
' chair ' ? — Yes, no. — Could it or not ? — Yes, it could." A 
star was called a " star " " because people thought that name 
would go best. — Why ? — / don't know. — Could it have been 
called ' nail ' ? — It wouldn't have been so good, etc." 

Dup shows a great advance on the preceding subjects 
in having partly reahsed the conventional character of 
names and above all in having understood that if names 
had been different no one would have known. None the 
less she seems to believe in a certain harmony between 
the name and the idea of the thing (an etymological 
instinct, of which many examples occur later) without 
venturing definitely to state its nature. 

The following examples of the second 'stage show 
children who realise that the character of names is not 
entirely arbitrary — that is a later stage — but conventional. 

Mey (io) : " Could you have been called Henry ? — 
Yes. — Could the Jura have been called ' Saleve ' and the 
Saleve ' Jura ' ? — Yes, because- men could have changed 
names or made them the opposite. — Could the sun have 
been called ' moon ' ? — Why not ? — Could it have ? Could 
that (a table) have been called a chair and that (a chair) 
a table ? — Yes. — If the sun had been called ' moon,' 
would we have known it was wrong ? — No. — Why not ? 
— We couldn't have known it was wrong. — Why not ? — 



NOMINAL REALISM 83 

Because they would have given the name ' moon ' to the sun. 
They wouldn't have seen any difference. 

Bab (8; 11) after having given a number of primitive 
answers suddenly readised his sophistry and replied to the 
last question quite correctly : " Could the Sal^ve have 
been called ' Jura ' and the Jura ' Saleve ' ? — Yes. — 
Why ? — Because it's the same thing. — Could the sun have 
been called ' moon ' and the moon ' sun ' ? — Yes. — Should 
we have known the names were changed ? — Yes. — Why ? 
— Because we'd have been told. — If no one had told us should 
we have known ? — No. — Why not ? — Because names 
aren't marked on things." 

Thus at about the age of 9 or 10, that is to say just at 
the age when all the preceding questions were solved, the 
child admits that names could have been changed and that 
no one would have known. But this answer does not alone 
prove that the name has no intrinsic value. It simply 
proves the dechne of ontological reaUsm : names are no 
longer tied up to the things they represent. 

Indeed, question 7, " Why does a particular object 
have a particular name ? " is not solved until after 
question 8, and it is in fact the hardest of all the 
questions. 

Success in answering question 8 simply shows that a 
child regards a name as conventional — it was decided to 
call the sun ' sun,' yet there is nothing in its nature which 
tells us to call it thus. But the name is not yet arbitrary ; 
it is not a pure sign. On the contrary it is justified on 
etymological grounds. The word ' sun ' involves the idea 
of shining, round, etc. It is not before the age of 11 or 
12 that the child gives up making such justifications and 
that question 7 is really solved. 

Question 7 gives rise to the following stages : Until 
the age of 10, all names contain the idea of the thing. 
During the second stage (10 and 11) there is simply some 
sort of harmony between the name and the idea ; ^ the 
name ' fits,' goes well, etc. That is to say the idea of the 
thing is stiU present in some measure, but other names 
containing the same idea might have been chosen. Finally, 



84 CHILD'S CONCEPTION OF THE WORLD 

after ii or 12 the name contains in itself nothing. It is 
purely a sign. 
The following are examples of the first stage : — 

Horn (5 ; 3) : " Why is the sun called what it is ? — 
Because it behaves as if ii was the sun." 

Roc (6) : " Why was the sun given that name ? — 
Because it shines. — And the Sal^ve ? — Because it is a 
mountain. — Why are mountains called ' mountains ' ? — 
Because they are all white." 

Bab (8 ; 11) succeeded with question 8 but not with 
question 7 : " Why is the sun Ccdled what it is ? — Because 
it is all red. — Why is the moon called what it is ? — Because 
it is all yellow. — And the Sal^ve ? — Because it is called the 
SaUve. — Why } — Because . . . — For a reason or for no 
reason? — For a reason. — Why? — . . . — Why are clouds 
called hke that ? — Because they are all grey. — Does 
' clouds ' mean that they are all grey ? — Yes." 

Veil (9^) also succeeded with question 8. But he 
beheves the sun is so called " because it heats " ; a table 
" because it is used for writing," etc. 

Bus (10) : The Sal^ve is so called " because it rises 
up" ; the stars " because they are that shape " ; a stick 
" because it is thick." " Does the stick mean that it is 
thick ^—It is long." 

Fran (9) : The Sal^ve is called " Saleve " " because it 
is a mountain which slopes on all sides " (see Fran's case, 

§1). 

These examples might be multipHed indefinitely. They 
are curiously reminiscent of the cases of syncretism 
already studied {Language and Thought, Chapter VI) and in 
particular of the cases of " justification at all cost." The 
principle is the same in all : a word is always associated 
with its context until it comes to be regarded as implying 
the whole context. 

It is clearly in this verbal syncretism and in the nominal 
realism with which it is connected that the origin wiU be 
found for what M. Bally has called the " etymological 
instinct ", that is the tendency to attribute to every name 
an origin justifying it. 

In the second stage may be grouped those children who, 



NOMINAL REALISM 85 

whilst not so boldly affirming the connection between 
names and their content yet feel that there is none the 
less a harmony. 

Dup (7^, a girl) : " Why are the stars called ' stars ' ? 
— Because people thought it the best name. — Why ? — / 
don't know. — (see earlier Dup's answers to question 8). 
The sun was given the name ' sun,' " because the sun gives 
more light (than the moon) and I think too that the name 
of sun goes best for the sun, because the people who gave 
it that name thought it suited it best." 

Mey (10) after having solved question 8 said, however, 
that the sun was so called : " because people thought it 
was a good name and a bright one." 

Dup and Mey do not say that the name of the sun 
impUes light. They merely say there should be a connec- 
tion. In principle this is true, but what in fact they 
maintain is not the result of a historical hypothesis but is 
simply the last traces of nominal reaUsm. 

Among the children who solved question 7, Mey was 
the only one we have so far found who succeeded before 
the age of 11 or 12, and he only arrived at the solution at 
the end of the examination and after first giving the answers 
quoted above. 

Mey (10) ..." Why is the moon called by that 
name ? — Just, because it is, for no reason. — Why is the 
Saleve so called ? — It's a name people found for it. — Could 
it have been caUed ' Nitchevo ' ? — Certainly, because that's 
a name too." 

Gen (11) : " Why is the sun called what it is ? — Not 
for any reason, it's just a name. — And the moon ? — 
No reason. Anything can be called by any name you like." 

It is thus not until question 7 is solved that the child 
can be supposed to have understood the arbitrary nature 
of names. Nominal realism in its ontological form is 
discarded after the age of 9 or 10, but the reaUsm of the 
logical form does not start to disappear before 11 or 12. 
In short, logical reahsm arises from ontological realism 
but lasts longer. 

§ 4. Conclusions. — The relation of this study of nominal 
reahsm to our previous research on the notion of thought 
remains to be shown. 



86 CHILD'S CONCEPTION OF THE WORLD 

For the child, to think is to deal in words. This belief 
involves three confusions, and three dualisms arise in the 
process of their elimination. First, there is the confusion 
between the sign and the thing : thought is regarded as 
inseparable from its object.^ There is the confusion 
between internal and external : thought is regarded as 
situated both in the air and in the mouth. Finally, there 
is the confusion between matter and thought : thought 
is regarded as a material substance, a voice, a whisper, etc. 

Does the study of nominal realism confirm the existence 
of these confusions and does it reveal how the child 
becomes aware of the corresponding dualisms ? It 
seems so. 

To begin with, the confusion of sign and thing is so 
evidently rooted in the very nature of nominal realism 
that it is unnecessary to pursue the point. 

The confusion of internal and external is, on the other 
hand, less obvious at first glance. However, the existence 
of the second stage, which relates to the location of names, 
is clear evidence of this confusion. In fact when the child 
first distinguishes the name from the thing named he does 
not directly place the name " in the head " : he starts 
rather by situating it in the surrounding air, " every- 
where " where it is spoken of. In other words, voice is 
at the same time both within and outside ourselves. This 
is precisely what we found in regard to thought, which is 
at the same time both " outside " and in the mouth. 

The third confusion is not actually found but is obviously 
implied in the second. 

The ages at which these three corresponding duaUsms 
appear has only to be studied to reveal how the child 
comes to discover the non-material nature of thought. 

Until the age of 6 or 7 names come from the things 
themselves. They were discovered by looking at the things. 
They are in the things, etc. This first and crudest form 
of the confusion between sign and thing disappears some- 

1 M. Delacroix in Le Langage et la Pensie speaks of " adherence du 
signe." 



NOMINAL REALISxM 87 

where about the age of 7 or 8. The disappearance of the 
confusion between internal and external comes at about 
9 or 10, when names are first localised " in the head." 
But as we saw with the notion of thought, it is not before 
the age of 11 that thought is regarded as immaterial. 

It would therefore seem as if the child first realised that 
signs were distinct from things and was then led by this 
discovery increasingly to regard thought as internal. This 
continuous and progressive differentiation of signs and 
things, together with the growing realisation of the 
subjectivity of thought, appears gradually to lead him to 
the notion that thought is immaterial. 

What psychological factors are responsible for this 
progressive distinction between signs and things ? Most 
probably the child's growing awareness of his own thought, 
which takes place invariably after the age of 7 or 8. 
Its manifestations have been studied elsewhere {Judgment 
and Reasoning, Chapter IV, §§ i and 2). But this awareness 
is itself dependent on social factors, as we attempted to 
show : it is through contact with others and the practice of 
discussion that the mind is forced to realise its subjective 
nature and thus to become aware of the process of thought 
itself. 



CHAPTER 111 

DREAMS 

The child is a realist and a realist because he has not 
yet grasped the distinction between subject and object 
and the internal nature of thought. Obviously, therefore, 
he will be confronted by grave difficulties when he attempts 
to explain the most subjective of all phenomena — dreams. 
The study of children's conceptions as to the nature of 
dreams is thus of great interest and from a twofold point 
of view, for the explanation of the dream supposes the 
duaUty first of the internal and the external, and secondly 
of thought and matter. 

If this research is to be of value we must as before set 
aside all we have learned from the analysis of primitive 
mentahty and in particular the important work of M- 
Levy-Bruhl. We shall no doubt come across analogies 
between the child and the primitive at every step ; this 
will be, however, in the course of studying the child himself 
without any preconceived ideas, rather than because we 
are deliberately seeking such analogies. 

The technique to be followed in determining what 
genuinely are children's ideas concerning dreams is more 
delicate than that of the preceding researches. It is 
probable, in fact, that children ask many questions con- 
cerning their dreams and are given the most contra- 
dictory explanations, particularly regarding nightmares, 
so that it is necessary to be constantly on guard and to 
try to confirm each result by complementary questions. 

The procedure we found most satisfactory consisted of 
an inquiry bearing on four points, which should always 

88 



DREAMS 89 

be given in a fixed order. The first concerns the origin 
of the dream. The question is stated thus : " You know 
what a dream is ? You dream sometimes, at night ? 
Then tell me where the dreams come from ? " This 
question is usually sufficient to start the child talking, 
particularly when it believes dreams to come " from the 
head." When the origin is held to be external, the ques- 
tion must be pressed further, and an explanation given 
as to " how," etc. A particularly equivocal answer is : 
" It's the night that makes dreams." Some children mean 
by this simply that it is at night that one dreams, while 
others, on the contrary, mean that a black smoke (see 
Chapter IX, § 2) causes the formation of dreams, that is to 
say of deceptive images, in the room (and not in the head) . 
In short, one must always get to the roots, yet without 
allowing the question itself to be suggestive and without 
wearying the child and goading him into the " answer at 
random." 

The second point, the place of the dream, completes 
the first and forms an indispensable check on it. When 
the child says that dreams come " from the head," two 
completely different meanings are possible. The child 
may believe either that the dream is in the head or he 
may think that the head produces a dream in the room. 
Dreams may be regarded as either internal or external 
just as much when they come from God as when they are 
made by the night. It is, therefore, of primary import- 
ance to determine where the child locates dreams. More- 
over, this question is the counterpart to those bearing on 
the place of thought and of names studied earher. But 
in the case of dreams the question raises difficulties. If 
put thus : " While you dream, where is the dream ? " 
the danger Hes naturally in the child knowing the dream 
to be in the head yet saying " in front," because it thinks 
it is being asked where the dream appears to be. The 
answer " in front of us " may thus sometimes mean that 
the dream is conceived as really in front and at other 
times simply that the dream appears to be in front of us. 



90 CHILD'S CONCEPTION OF THE WORLD 

This point calls for the closest attention. The questions 
must then be asked, " Yes, in front of us, but is it really 
and truly in front of us or does it only seem to be in front 
of us ? " Or with the very little ones, " But is there really 
something in front of us or is it only make-beheve ? " etc. 
But the majority of the children who describe the dream 
as " in front of us " are just those who are unable to make 
this distinction between " being " and " seeming " and 
cannot, therefore, understand the controlling question. 
This must, however, be proved in each case. 

Also it is important to start with the first point before 
asking, " where are dreams." Otherwise there may be 
suggestion by perseveration, in the sense that the child 
who describes the dream as "in front of us " may then 
be tempted to seek the origin of the dream as external 
also, though he would not have done so if the question 
of origin had been asked first. 

The third point concerns the organ of the dream. 
" What do you dream with ? " Finally, the fourth point 
is the " why " of dreams. This question is suggestive in 
the sense that to ask : " Why did you dream of your 
mother, of school, etc. . . ." is to suggest a purpose. In 
fact all the children over the age of 7 or 8 gave a causal 
explanation (" because I thought of it during the day, 
etc."), whilst only the youngest gave the " Why " a pre- 
causal interpretation. This is a question to be gone into. 

It may also be mentioned that to avoid the possibiUty 
of suggestion by perseveration, with two or three ex- 
ceptions, none of the children we questioned on the 
subject of dreams had previously been questioned on 
name?, and only half had already been questioned on 
thought. 

The answers obtained can be classified as belonging to 
three distinct stages. During the first (approximately 
5-6) the child believes the dream to come from outside 
and to take place within the room and he thus dreams 
with the eyes. Also, the dream is highly emotional : 
dreams often come " to pay us out," " because we've done 



DREAMS 91 

something we ought not to have done," etc. During the 
second stage (average age yS) the child supposes the 
source of the dream to be in the head, in thought, in the 
voice, etc., but the dream is in the room, in front of him. 
Dreaming is with the eyes ; it is looking at a picture 
outside. The fact that it is outside does not mean that 
it is true : the dream is unreal, but consists in an image 
existing outside, just as the image of an ogre may exist, 
without there actually being a real ogre. Finally, during 
the third stage (about 9-10), the dream is the product of 
thought, it takes place inside the head (or in the eyes)^ 
and dreaming is by means of thought or else with the 
eyes, used internally. 

§ I. First Stage : The Dream comes from outside 
AND REMAINS EXTERNAL. — It seems most probable that 
the first time a child dreams it confuses the dream with 
reahty. On waking the dream is still held to be true and 
objective, and, above all, the memory of the dream be- 
comes confused with ordinary memories. With regard 
to nightmares this seems quite evident. Every one knows 
how hard it can be to calm a child who has just woken 
from a nightmare, and how impossible it is to convince 
him that the objects he dreamt of did not really exist. 
To illustrate the confusion which takes place between the 
dream and the recollection of actual events the author 
has collected several typical cases from amongst the 
personal recollections of his collaborators. 

Here is an example : — 

"All my childhood I believed that a train had really 
passed over me. I can remember the exact scene of the 
adventure : a level-crossing which really existed quite near 
the house where my parents lived. In my false memory, my 
mother had just crossed the line pushing a baby in a pram 
when I realised a train was almost upon me. I had barely 
time to throw myself down on my back and I can still see the 
carriages passing over my head at top-speed. Afterwards I 
got up perfectly safe and sound and rejoined my mother. 
That is the false memory which I believed true all through 
my childhood. It was not till about the age of 12 that my 



92 CHILD'S CONCEPTION OF THE WORLD 

parents undeceived me, when I was boasting one day {for 
the first time !) of having been under a train. The exactitude 
of the memory convinces me it must be of a dream which had 
centred round the image of the level-crossing I knew so well." 

In the same way, another of our collaborators believed 
during a great part of her childhood that her parents had 
attempted to drown her in the sea. Here again, the visual 
exactitude of the memory certainly seems to indicate a 
dream. 

MUe Feigin has had the happy idea of studying how 
the child gradually comes to distinguish the dream from 
reahty. She has found that, up till about the age of 9, 
it is not the absurdities of the dream which aid the child's 
judgment but that on the contrary, contradiction with the 
facts of reality as well as opposition to the views of others 
are used as criteria at a still earlier age. But in all cases, 
the inquiry has shown that the distinction between the 
dream and reality is not always easy and that emotional 
dreams, in particular, have a tendency to be completely 
confused with reahty. 

How then does the child explain the dream the first 
time he is able to distinguish it from reahty ? Evidently 
he will regard the dream as a sort of deceptive reahty — 
just as an Epinal picture ^ may be deceptive by repre- 
senting things which do not exist — but objective since the 
picture in the book is made with paper and colours that 
really exist. This may easily be observed. Sully quotes 
the sf)ontaneous remark of a child who did not want to 
go back to a certain room, " because it is full of dreams." 

Banf (4^) describes the dream as made of " hghts " 
which are in the room. These hghts are " little lamps, like 
bicycles " {i.e. hke the lamps on bicycles at night). These 
hghts come "from the moon. It breaks up. The lights 
come in the night." In other words Banf attributes the 
" Ughts " which make the dreams to the most striking 
source of hght — the moon, which divides into quarters. 

^ Coloured illustrations to children's fairy-tales, etc., so-called from 
the town where they were first produced during the eighteenth century. 
[Translator's note.] 



DREAMS 



93 



Had (6 ; 6)*: " You know what a dream is ? — When you 
are asleep and you see something. — Where does it come 
from ? — The sky. — Can you see it ? — No{/) . . . yes, when 
you're asleep. — Could 1 see it if I was there ? — No. — 
Why not ? — Because you wouldn't he asleep. — Can you 
touch it ? — No. — Why not ? — Because it is in front of us." 
And later : " When you are asleep you dream and you see 
them (the dreams), but when you aren't asleep you don't see 
them." 

KuN (7 ; 4) says that dreams come "from the night. — 
Where do they go ? — Everywhere. — What do you dream 
with ? — With the mouth. — Where is the dream ? — In the 
night. — Where does it happen ? — Everywhere. In rooms, 
in houses. — Whereabouts ? — In the bed. — Can you see it ? — 
No, because it is only at night. — Would anyone know you 
were dreaming ? — No, because it's near us. — Could you 
touch it ? — No, because you're asleep when you dream. — 
Is the dream made of thought ? — No. — Where is it ? — In 
the night. — Where ? — Near. — Is it the thoughts we think 
with ? — No." And later : " Could anyone see it ? — 
No, because if you looked at it, it would go." 

Sci (6) : " WTiere does a dream come from ? — From 
the night. — What is it ? — It's the evening. — What is the 
night like ? — It is black — How are dreams made ? — They 
come when you shut your eyes. — How ? — / don't know. — 
Where are the dreams made ? — Out there (pointing to the 
window). — What are dreams made of ? — Black. — Yes, 
but of what ? — Of light. — Where do they come from ? — 
From the lights outside. — Where are they ? — There are some 
out there " (pointing to the street-lamps). " Why do 
dreams come ? — Because the light makes them." (On the 
subject of hght, see Sci's remarks on vision, Chapter I, § 2.) 
Later on Sci remarked that dreams come "from the sky. — 
What sends them ? — The clouds. — Why the clouds ? — 
They come." This behef that the night comes from the 
clouds is in fact frequent (see Chapter IX, § 2). Sci has 
thus returned to his idea that dreams are due to the night. 

BouRG (6) : " When do you dream ? — At night. — Where 
is the dream when you are dreaming ? — In the sky. — And 
then ? . . . — It comes in the night." " Can you touch the 
dream ? — No, you can't see and besides you're asleep. — 
But if you were not asleep ? — No, you can't see a dream. 
— When you are asleep, could another person see yom* 
dream ? — No, because you're asleep. — Why can't one see 
it ? — Because it is night. — Where do dreams come from ? 



94 CHILD'S CONCEPTION OF THE WORLD 

— From the sky." To dream, there must thus be some- 
thing in the room. But one cannot see it clearly because 
one is asleep and it is night-time. But, strictly, one ought 
to be able to see it. 

Barb (5|) : " Do you ever have dreams ? — Yes, I 
dreamt I had a] hole in my hand. — Are dreams true ? — 
No, they are pictures (images) we see (!) — Where do they 
come from ? — From God. — Are your eyes open or shut 
when you dream ? — Shut. — Could I see your dream ? — 
No, you would he too far away. — And your mother ? — Yes^ 
hut she lights the light. — Is the dream in the room or inside 
you ? — It isn't in me or I .shouldn't see it (!) — And could 
your mother see it ? — No, she isn't in the hed. Only my 
little sister sleeps with me." 

Zeng (6) : " Where do dreams come from ? — They come 
from the night. — How ? — / don't know. — What do you 
mean by ' they come from the night ' ? — The night makes 
them. — Does the dream come by itself ? — No. — What 
makes it ? — The night. — Where is the dream ? — It's made 
in the room. — Where does the dream come from ? — From 
the sky. — Is the dream made in the sky ? — No. — Where is 
it made ? — In the room" 

Ris (8|, a girl) : " Where do dreams come from ? — 
From the night. — Where is the dream when you are dream- 
ing ? — In my hed. — Where ? — In the room quite near, beside 
me. — Where does the dream come from ? — From the night. 
— Should I see it, if I was near you ? — No. — And do you 
see it ? — No {cp. Bourg). — Then what is it ? — . . . — Is it 
made of something or not of anything ? — Of something. — 
Of paper ? — (laughing) No. — Of what ? — Of words. — And 
what are words ? — Talking {en voix). Where does the 
talking in the dream come from ? — From the sky. — Where 
in the sky ?^. . . — How is it made in the sky ? . . . 
Does the dream come of itself or does something send it. — 
It comes hy itself. — Why do we dream ? — Because we think 
of something." Ris's- view is evidently advanced! But 
she identifies thought with speech (la voix) and continues 
to believe the dream comes from without : " What is 
talking (la voix) made of ? — Air — Where does it come 
from ? — The air. — And the dream ? — From the sky." 

Mont (7 ; 0) declares that the things he sees in dreams 
are " against the wall. — Should I see them if I was there ? 
Yes. — Where do they come from ? — From outside. — What 
sends them? — People {des Messieurs). — What do you 
dream of ? — A man heing run over. — Is he in front of you 



DREAMS 95 

when you dream or inside you ? — In front of me. — Where ? 
— Under my window. — Should I have seen him if I. had 
been there ? — Yes. — Did you see him in the morning ? — 
No. — Why not ? — Because it was a dream. — WTiere did 
this dream come from ? — . . . — Did you make it or some- 
one else ? — Someone else. — Who ? — A man my father knows 
(the one who was run over) . — Does he make all the dreams ? 
— Only that one. — And the others ? — Other men." 

Engl (8^) : " Where do dreams come from ? — / don't 
know. — Say what you think. — From the sky. — How ? 
— . . . — Where do they come ? — To the house. — Where is 
the dream whilst you are dreaming ? — Beside me. — Are 
your eyes shut when you dream ? — Yes. — Where is the 
dream ? — Over there. — Can one touch it ? — No. — See it ? 
— No. — Could someone beside you see it ? — No. — What 
do we dream with ? — The eyes." 

We have made a point of multiplying these examples 
to show that though the detail of all these answers differs 
widely, in their broad Unes they are similar. In fact, for 
all these children the dream is an image or a voice which 
comes from outside and manifests itself in front of their 
eyes. This image is not real in the sense of representing 
real events, but as an image it does exist objectively. It 
is external to the child and is in no sense mental. The 
nature of this beUef must briefly be made clear. 

To begin with, it will have been noticed that emphasis 
was put up>on the question : " Would someone beside 
you have been able to see the dream ? " The most 
realistic among the children, like Had and Mont, agreed 
that they would, since they regarded the dream as a 
ready-made image which comes and takes its place beside 
the dreamer and which is derived from the objects which 
figure in the dream. Others, like Bourg, Engl, etc., held 
the contrary view, but the interesting point here was that 
they claimed that neither could they see the dream. This 
was because at the moment they were answering the. 
question, they were thinking not of the actual sensations 
which make up what is seen in the dream, but of that 
something which, so they say, manufactures the dream 
in the room : " You can't see the dream," according to 



96 CHILD'S CONCEPTION OF THE WORLD 

Bourg, " because it is night." Here the child is less a 
realist. What he situates in the room is simply the cause 
of the dream. This by no means indicates that he locaUses 
dreams in the head. Although they can answer that their 
eyes are shut whilst they dream, these children all believe, 
nevertheless, that it is " with the eyes " that they see the 
images that the cause of the dream makes outside. It is 
as if there was beside them a something impinging on 
their eyes but invisible to all. Compared with the group 
represented by Mont these children are in the first stage 
of subjectivism, but they are still realist. Compared with 
the later stages, the children of the first group are still 
entirely in the grip of a primitive realism, whilst the 
reaUsm of those in the second stage is due to the necessities 
of explanation, that is to say is a derivative type of realism. 
Moreover, the two types of reply must evidently coexist 
in each child. 

In the matter of the locahsing of the dream, these two 
groups of answers correspond to two distinct types of 
belief. According to one type (that of Mont, etc.) the 
dream is located at the actual spot of which one dreams ; 
if the dream is of a man in the street, the dream is in the 
street " under my window." But yet there is nothing 
real there, because it is a dream, in other words an 
illusion ; but the image as image does exist materiaUy 
" under my window." There is thus primitive realism 
or confusion between " being " and " seeming " : the 
dream seems to be in the street, therefore it is in the 
street. It must, however, be insisted that this confusion 
is never complete with those children who realise that 
dreams are Olusory. In other words, those children who 
locate the dream in the sfreet also beUeve (through 
participation, and in defiance of logic) that it is in the 
room. This is the case of Mont who regards the dream 
as at the same time " against the waU " of his room and 
also in the street. We shall meet more cases of this type 
presently (see cases of Metr and of Giamb), so that it is 
unnecessaiy to pursue the point now. 



DREAMS 97 

The second type of belief consists simply in admitting 
that the dream is in the room. This is a realism of a much 
more interesting kind, since it is not directly dependent 
on the illusions of the dream itself. It would seem as if 
children ought to regard the dream as either in the things 
of which they dream, through primitive realism (as Mont 
does partially) or as in the head. As a matter of fact, 
however, children place the dream beside them because 
they are at the same time too advanced to believe any 
longer in the reality of the dream but also not yet advanced 
enough to regard images as subjective and internal repre- 
sentations. To place the dream in the room is thus a 
compromise between a thoroughgoing reahsm and sub- 
jectivism. " Being " is no longer confused with " seem- 
ing " ; but the internal nature of images is not yet under- 
stood. 

Now this beHef in the external nature of images is 
extremely insistent. One is tempted at first to think the 
children have not understood the question and think they 
are being asked where the dream seems to be. But this 
is not the case. Barb, for example, after having defined 
the dream as " pictures that you see," absolutely refuses, 
despite our suggestion, to make the dream internal : 
" It isn't in me or I shouldn't see it." The following is a 
yet more striking case, because the child is advanced, has 
almost given up the behefs of the first stage and almost 
spontaneously made the suggestion — to reject it, however 
— that the dream is within himself : — 

Metr (5 ; q) : " Where does the dream come from ? — 
/ think you sleep so well thai you dream. — Does it come 
from us or from outside ? — From outside. — What do we 
dream with ? — / don't know. — With the hands ? . . . 
With nothing ? — Yes, with nothing. — When you are in 
bed and you dream, where is the dream ? — In my bed, 
under the blanket. I don't really know. If it was in my 
stomach (!) the bones would be in the way and I shouldn't 
see it. — Is the dream there when you sleep ? — Yes, it is in 
my bed beside me." We tried suggestion : " Is the dream 
in your head ? — It is I that am in the dream : it isn't in 



98 CHILD'S CONCEPTION OF THE WORLD 

my head (!) — When you dream, you don't know you are in 
bed. You know you are walking. You are in the dream. 
You are in bed, but you don't know you are. — Can two 
people have the same dream ? — There are never two dreams 
(alike). — Where do dreams come from ? — / don't know. 
They happen. — Where ? — In the room and then afterward 
they come up to the children. They come by themselves. — 
You see the dream when you are in the room, but if I 
were in the room, too, should I see it ? — No, grown-ups 
{les Messieurs) don't ever dream. — Can two people ever 
have the same dream ? — No, never. — When the dream is 
in the room, is it near you ? — Yes, there ! (pointing to 
30 cms. in front of his eyes)." 

This case is remarkable. It contains the decisive state- 
ment : " It is I that am in the dream : it isn't in my 
head " ; in other words : The dream is something inside 
which I am shut up and so I can't at the same time have 
it all inside me. These words and the commentary follow- 
ing them are highly instructive. Firstly, Metr makes 
very clearly the distinction between " being in bed " and 
" knowing you are in bed " — " You are in bed, but you 
don't know you are." Secondly, Metr (who, by the way, 
appears to have only one word for " knowing " and 
" beUeving ") gives as the proof that the dream cannot 
be in him, the fact that he, Metr, is " in his dream." And 
to show that he really is in his dream he adds that when 
he is dreaming he " knows," that is to say he beUeves, 
that he is walking, etc. In other words, whilst knowing 
the dream to be unreal (and admitting that he alone can 
see his dream), Metr thinks that he is himself represented 
in his dream, perhaps only as an image, but as an image 
of which he himself is the source. Like Mont, Metr thus 
beheves that there is participation between the image 
dreamed and the thing of which it is the image. In his 
arguments, however, he is exactly on a level with a child 
ol the second stage, Fav, whom we shall study later. From 
the examples given so far, it may, therefore, be concluded 
that as regards the localisation of images, the dream is 
conceived as a picture situated beside the child, but a 



DREAMS 99 

picture interacting with the things it represents and con- 
sequently coming partly from the places where these 
things are situated. 

The next point to consider concerns the substance of 
the dream. In this respect the answers of children of the 
first stage are identical with those of the second, except 
in a simple case where the dream is described as being 
made " of night " or of " black." This statement is 
directly bound up with the belief in the external origin 
of the dream ; the dream comes from outside, from the 
night (that is to say from a black smoke), it is, there- 
fore, made " of night." In the other cases, the fabric of 
the dream consists of that characteristic with which the 
dream itself is most highly charged. Those children who 
are struck by the visual character of their dreams — much 
the greatest number — believe the dream to be made 
" of Hght." Those who have heard voices in their dreams 
suppose the dream to be made " of words," that is to say 
ultimately, " of air." 

In considering the origin of the dream we found two 
types of answer co-existing in the majority of children. 
First are those who offer no real explanation or whose 
explanations are simply elaborated from their ideas on 
the substance of the dream. For example, a child will 
say the dream comes " from the sky," " from outside," 
" from the night," " from the room," all of which state- 
ments amount to much the same. When the child stresses 
the luminous character of the dream he has recourse to 
such sources of light as the moon or the street-lamps to 
explain its origin. 

What is more interesting is that certain children, on 
the other hand, seem to believe that it is the people they 
dream of who produce the dream. Thus Mont seems to 
suggest that it is the man of whom he dreamed (the man 
who was run over and who is a friend of his father) who 
himself caused the dream. Mile Rodrigo, who set the 
same questions to some hundred Spanish children, obtained 
a large number of answers according to which dreams are 



TOO CHILD'S CONCEPTION OF THE WORLD 

sent not only by God or the devil (which proves nothing 
in itself) but principally by " wolves " (the child having 
dreamed of wolves), or " the king " (of whom the child 
had dreamed), or " men " or " the poor " (the child having 
dreamed of gipsies), etc. There would thus seem to be 
participation here also between the person dreamed of 
and the dream itself ; in other words it would seem that 
the person dreamed of is in part the cause of the dream, 
although he need not appear in the dream in flesh and 
blood. 

But on this point care must be taken not to endow the 
child with a systematic theory but rather to unravel the 
real significance of his answers. The question as to the 
" Why " of dreams must first be treated. It appears, as 
we shall attempt to show, that certain children regard 
dreams as a sort of punishment, and it is this character 
of retribution which leads these children to suppose that 
the persons they dream 6i must be responsible for the 
origin of the dream. 

The following are examples : — 

Sci (6), as we have already seen, attributes dreams to 
the street-lamps, but this does not prevent him from 
supposing dreams to have a purpose : — " Why do we 
have dreams ? — Because the light makes them. — Why ? — 
Because they (the dreams) want to come. — Why ? — To pay 
us out {pour nous embeter). — Why ? — So that we shall 
wake up." 

Bag (7) : " Where do dreams come from ? — At night, 
from God. God sends them. — How ? — He makes the night 
come and he whispers in our ears. — How is the dream made ? 
— It is made with words. . . . — What is the dream made 
of ? — It is made of letters." We asked Bag to tell us one 
of his dreams : he had dreamed of robbers. " Where did 
this dream come from ? — From God. — Why did God send 
you this dream ? — To pay me out, because I wasn't good." 
" What had you done to have such a dream ? — I'd been 
naughty, I'd made Mother cry. I'd made her run round the 
table." This last was not from the dream Bag told us, 
but was true ; after behaving stupidly Bag had tried, in 
order to escape his mother, to " run round the table " ! 



DREAMS loi 

GiAMB (8|) : " Where do dreams come from ? — They 
are when you've done something and you know of it lots of 
times. — 'What does that mean ? — You've done something 
and you dream of it every day." Giamb would thus seem 
to have reached the second stage, but as we shall see, he 
is between the two, the origin of the dream he regards 
as both internal and external. " Where is the dream when 
you are dreaming ? — When you've done something ? — 
When you dream, where are you ? — In bed. — Where is 
the dream ? — At home. — Where ? — In the house, where the 
thing is you've done (!) — Where is the dream ? — In the 
room. — Where ? — In the bed. — Where ? — All over, every- 
where in the bed. — Where does the dream come from ? — 
Where you've been for a walk. — When you dream of Miss 
S. (the teacher) where does the dream come from ? — 
From school. — What made the dream ? — Perhaps it was 
in class, you did something, then you dream about it. — Why 
do you dream of the boys ? (he had dreamed of his school- 
fellows) — Because they did things they ought not to. — 
Why did you dream of it ? — Because they did things they 
ought not to. — What makes dreams ? — It's what you see 
while you are dreaming. — What do you dream with ? — 
With the eyes. — Where does the dream come from ? — From 
the children who did the things. It's what the children did." 
We try suggestion : " Does the dream come from the head 
or from outside ? — From the head. — Why from the head ? 
— Because you've done something you ought not to. — Who 
told you you dream of things you ought not to have done ? 
— Because sometimes you are afraid (fear is felt to be a 
retribution)." A moment later we tried the following 
suggestive question : " Who sends dreams ? — The boys 
who made us dream." 

It is clear from these examples that for the child the 
dream is not usually an accidental happening but is 
rather an emotional resultant. It may be that certain 
parents are stupid enough to make use of their children's 
dreams to make them believe in retribution for wrong- 
doing but in the cases quoted above the child's belief in 
the purposive character of dreams seems to be quite 
spontaneous : Sci, for example, does not draw any moral 
from the dream, but nevertheless regards it as directed 
towards a definite end ; Giamb connects his dream with 



102 CHILD'S CONCEPTION OF THE WORLD 

faults he has not himself committed and sees in the fear 
the dream provokes the proof of its moral character. From 
this purposiveness to the idea that the dream is caused 
by persons outside the dream is but a step. Giamb takes 
the step although he has almost arrived at the second 
stage. 

But, in other respects, Giamb's answers bear a singular 
resemblance to those of Mont and of Metr, quoted earlier. 
The essence of Giamb's remarks, as of Mont's, is, in fact, 
a realism of the image, analogous to nominal realism, and 
such that the image is conceived as necessarily bound up 
with the thing it represents. Indeed, although Giamb 
says that the dream comes from " when you've done 
something and you know of it," and although following 
our suggestion he admits that the dream comes from the 
head, he none the less regards the dream as taking place 
in the room or at the very spot " where the thing is you've 
done," that is to say at the place where the thing is which 
the dream is about. Further, he suggests that the persons 
the dream is about are the cause of the dream, because 
they have done " things they ought not to." The dream, 
according to Giamb, comes " from the children who did 
the things." 

In short, treating these answers merely as negative 
indications and without ascribing any systematic theory 
to the child the following conclusions may be drawn. 
Whilst regarding the dream as false, that is to say as an 
image displayed in front of us in order to deceive us, thx? 
child, nevertheless, adheres to the suggestion that the image 
is a part of the person it represents and is a material 
emanation of the facts it has observed. Just as the word 
participates in the object of which it is the name and is 
situated both in it and close to us at the same time, so 
the image participates in the object imagined and is 
situated both in it and in the room at the same time. 
The sign is confused with the thing signified. It need 
not, however, be supposed that the child regards the 
person of whom he dreams as the conscious and only 



DREAMS 103 

cause of the dream but simply that he has not yet the 
capacity to regard the image of a person that he has 
actually seen as something internal that has been pro- 
duced by thought. The immediate source of this image 
is regarded as in the person just as the immediate source 
of names was held to be in the objects named (Chapter II), 
and in this case all the more so since the emotional and 
moral aspect of the dream makes the child regard the 
image as pursuing him not by chance but in order to 
punish him. 

It is this emotional aspect which explains why it is 
almost always persons and not things that children 
regard as causing the images which form their dreams. 
When the child says that the night or the moon have 
sent the dreams he has not dreamed of the night or the 
moon, but when he says that a certain person has sent the 
dream it means he has dreamed of that person. Also it is 
obviously easier to maintain the reaUst attitude towards 
images when these are of persons than when they are of 
things ; the image of a person is much more charged with 
emotion than that of a thing and so is much more hkely 
to be conceived as directly inspired by the person it 
represents than the image of an object as inspired by the 
object. The attitude of children towards pictures is, in 
fact, well known : — 

Dan, a child of 14, whom we shall quote presently, 
remembers having beheved during his childhood " that 
statues and pictures of people were not alive but could think 
and see. One wasn't alone so long as there was a picture in 
the room." 

Del (6J) (see Language and Thought, p. 207) before a 
statue : "Is it dead ? " 

Dar (2) cried because a photograph had just fallen 
from the wall, and said that the ladies had hurt themselves 
falling. 

In short, apart from the emotional aspect we have just 
considered, the participation between the images and the 
persons they represent must be regarded as of the same 



104 CHILD'S CONCEPTION OF THE WORLD 

type as that between names and the things named. Seen 
in this hght, the behefs we have studied seem easy to 
interpret. Our interpretation is, moreover, made more 
acceptable by the fact that when they first dream all 
children regard their dreams as real. It is principally 
through the agency of its parents and its social environ- 
ment that the child becomes undeceived. But for this 
influence the participation between the persons seen in 
the dream and the real persons would be much keener. 

Is it possible, nevertheless, to find children who 
systematically admit such participations and who thus 
systematically beheve in their dreams, yet place them 
on a plane other than that of reality ? According to 
Sully this is so (see Studies of Childhood, pp. 103, 104). 
We have only found a single case favouring this view 
and a doubtful one at that since it is based only on 
memories. It must, however, be mentioned, since it 
might be of value if anyone were to have the good fortune 
to find similar beliefs by direct observation. 

Dan (14) knows nothing of the sociology of primitive 
peoples and comes of a family entirely free from super- 
stition. The bonds of friendship and confidence which 
exist between us preclude the possiblity of any attempt 
on his part to deceive us intentionally in relating the 
memories of his childhood. Dreams he says were for him 
" real." They were " like another world." " Every one 
went to bed (in reality) about the same time and then either 
one was carried off to another world or else everything 
changed." Dan was quite aware that he remained in his 
bed, " but all of myself was outside." (We shall find the 
same expressions given by a child of 8, Fav, in the follow- 
ing section.) The world of dreams was arranged in 
countries and Dan maintained that he could find the 
same places in one dream as in another. " / often had 
the same dream, about cats. There was a wall, a little train 
and lot of cats on the wall and all the cats chased me." This 
dream of the cats used to frighten Dan, but to return to 
the real world he had a device which he used in the dream 
itself : " I would throw myself on the ground (in the dream) 
and then I would wake up. I was still very frightened (once 
awake). / had the idea that I had been eaten up by the cuts." 



DREAMS 105 

A point of particular interest is that Dan used these ideas 
to explain the stories he was told and conversely he used 
the stories to co-ordinate his world of dreams. Thus, like 
nearly all the children we questioned on the subject, he 
would explain how fairies, ogres, etc., must at one time 
have existed since they are still spoken of in stories to-day. 
But, according to Dan, this fairy world still survived in 
the world of dreams. In particular, the voyage which 
took one from one's bed to join the dream, " had some- 
thing to do with fairy-tales." " The magic voyages " of 
fairy-tales must once have been real, since they were still 
possible in the dream. 

As a child Dan had also, associated with the feelings of 
being a stranger to one's self and of loss of personality 
that so many children experience, the idea that everything 
must happen of necessity, that everything was decided 
beforehand, that one was not responsible and that punish- 
ments ought not therefore to exist. But he attributed the 
same qualities to the dream world ; everything happened 
there of necessity, but without reference to the real 
world. It was " hke a double hfe," but a life regulated 
in advance and independent of the will of the dreamer. 

Finally, what seems to prove that these statements 
really correspond to the actual beliefs Dan held as a child 
(and that they are not merely systematisations made by 
him in retrospect at the age of 14) is that this behef in 
the land of dreams disappeared all at once when he first 
went to school and mixed with other boys. Indeed, he 
remembers having wondered whether his school- fellows 
also went to the land of dreams, and having decided it 
could not be so, his own conviction suffered definitely. 

It is impossible to say how much truth is contained in 
these memories of Dan. But they seem to point to the 
fact that, but for the adult social environment, children's 
conceptions of dreams would show even stronger partici- 
pation than that already analysed. But, whatever the 
extent of these participations (which in the child can only 
be arrived at with difficulty, owing to their emotional 
colouring) the fact is established that during the first 



io6 CHILD'S CONCEPTION OF THE WORLD 

stage the images of the dream are regarded as being 
external to mind and as emanating from external sources 
either in the persons and the things dreamed of or in such 
substances as the night, the light, etc. 

§ 2. The Second Stage : the Dream arises in us 
Ourselves but is External to Us. — The best proof of 
the truth of the preceding interpretations is the existence 
of the second stage. This stage is, in certain respects, 
more interesting than the first, since it reveals the child's 
realism in its most determined and developed form. The 
children of this stage have, indeed, discovered or learned 
that the dream comes from ourselves, or from thought, 
or from the head, etc. But, since they cannot understand 
how an image can be " external " at the moment of seeing 
it they place it, as in the first stage, in the room beside 
them. 

It seems as if in a large number of cases the child comes 
independently to the conclusion that he dreams with 
thought or with the head. The contradictions of the 
dream with reahty force him, in fact, gradually to dis- 
tinguish the image from the thing it represents, and thus 
to regard the image, if not as a mental object, at least as 
an object detached from reality and connected with 
speech, sight, thought, etc. It is the same process we 
found with names, when the names are first regarded as 
existing independently of the thing named. 

The following examples are of intermediate cases be- 
tween the first and second stages, in which may be dis- 
cerned the first spontaneous, though groping efforts to 
cast off the idea of an external origin for the dream. 

Horn (5:3): " You know what it is to dream ? — Yes. 
It's when you see people. — Where is the dream ? — In the 
smoke {la fumee). — What smoke ? — The smoke that comes 
from the bedclothes. — Where do the dreams come from ? 
— From here (pointing to his stomach). — Then how is it 
that they are in the bedclothes while you are dreaming ? 
— Because you know it's like that." Horn adds that the 
dream comes in front of the eyes, a few centimetres away. 
He does not believe thought to be with the mouth but 



DREAMS 107 

situates thought in the thorax. Is the smoke with which 
he associates the dream, therefore, the respiration ? Com- 
parison of Horn's case with those of Ris (§ i) and Falq 
(Chapter I, § 3) would suggest that this is so ; the dream, 
in so far as it is thought, being held to consist in speaking, 
in air and in the breath from respiration. 

Dug (6|) : " What is a dream ? — You dream at night. 
You are thinking of something (!) — Where does it come 
from ? — / don't know. — What do you think ? — That we 
make them ourselves (!) — Where is the dream while you 
are dreaming ? — Outside. — Where ? — There (pointing to 
the street, through the window). — Why outside ? — Be- 
cause you've got up. — And then ? — It goes. — While you 
are dreaming where is it ? — With us. — Where ? — In the 
bed. — Where. — Near. — If I was there, should I see it ? — 
No . . . Yes, because you'd be near the bed. — Where does 
the dream come from ? — Nowhere (!) — What does it come 
out of ? — Out of the bed. — How does it get there ? — 
Because you're dreaming. — Where is the dream made ? — 
In the bed. — How ? — From air {cp. Horn). — Where does 
the air come from ? — From outside. — Why ? — Because the 
window is open. — Why do you dream ? — Because yester- 
day we went bathing and were frightened. — Is there some- 
thing that sends the dream ? — Yes, the birds. — Why ? — 
Because they like the air." Dug then told how he had 
dreamed of soldiers. " Where did this dream come from ? 
— From outside. — Where ? — From far away, over there 
(pointing through the window). — Why ? — Because there's 
a wind. — What sends the dreams ? — The air. — And then ? 
— The birds. — And then ? — The pigeons. — And then ? — 
That's all. — Why the pigeons ? — Because they're happy 
when it's windy. — Do the pigeons send the dreams on 
purpose ? — No. — Do they know they are sending them ? 
— No. — Then why do they send them ? — Because of the 
wind. — Does the pigeon make the dream ? — Yes. — How ? 
By bringing the wind. — If there wasn't any wind, could we 
dream ? — No, the dream wouldn't be able to come." 

These curious cases closely recall the explanations of 
the phenomenon of thought given by children at the end 
of the first and beginning of the second stages : thought 
is voice, that is to say is composed of air and smoke, and 
it is both external and internal. (See Rou, etc., § i, 
Chapter I, and Falq, § 3). It is interesting to notice that 



io8 CHILD'S CONCEPTION OF THE WORLD 

Dug, like children when they first distinguish the name 
from the thing and reahse it to be a mental object, declares 
first of all that the dream is " nowhere," to fall back later 
into the realism of the first stage. 

The following two cases are also intermediate between 
the first and second stages : — 

Pig (9^) : " Where do dreams come from ? — When you 
are asleep, you think someone is beside you. When yoti see 
something in the day, you dream of it at night. — What is the 
dream ? — Oh, anything. — Where does it come from ? — / 
don't know. It comes by itself. — Where from ? — Nowhere. 
Where is it made ? — In the room. — Where ? — When you 
are lying down. — Where is it made, in the room or inside 
you ? — In me . . . outside. — Which, do you think ? — 
Outside. — Where does the dream come from, from the 
room or from you ? — From me. — Where is it, outside or 
in you ? — Beside me. — Where ? — In my room. — How far 
away ? (He points to 30 cms. in front of him.) " 

Dus (9) is a similar case. He Ukewise beheves that 
the self is concerned in the making of the dream : " Where 
do dreams come from ? — When you are ill." But the origin 
of the dream is also external : " Where do they come 
from ? — They come from outside us." Dreaming is " with 
the mouth," but the dream is " in the bed. — Where ? In 
the head or outside ? — Outside." 

In short, the dream is external to the body and its 
origin is both internal (the mouth) and external. This 
is the counterpart of what we saw with the children who 
claimed to think with the mouth whilst regarding thought 
as identical with the external air. Pig has moved a big 
step beyond the first stage in admitting that we dream 
of things we have seen and thus ourselves play a part in 
making the dream, but he is still far from the idea that 
the dream comes from within ourselves, that it has, in 
fact, an internal origin. 

The next cases are definitely examples of the second 
stage, where the dream comes from us but is external 
whilst we are dreaming. 

ScHi (6) is a very intelligent small boy who answered 
the questions with a Uvely interest. His answers are, 



DREAMS 109 

therefore, especially valuable : " Do you sometimes have 
dreams ? What is a dream ? — You think (l) of something 
during the night. — What do you dream with ? — With the 
soul {avec I' ante), with thought. — Where does the dream 
come from ? — During the night. It's the night that shows 
us the dream. — What does that mean ? Where is the 
dream whilst you're dreaming ? — It is in the — (he was 
about to say " head "), it is between the night and the head{\) 
— While you are dreaming, are your eyes open or shut ? — 
Shut. — Then where is the dream ? — It's when you see black 
that the dream comes. — Where is it ? — While you are not 
asleep it's in the head. While you are asleep it comes out{\) 
When it's night, it's night, but while you're asleep it isn't 
night any more. — When the dream comes, where is it ? — In 
front of the eyes and it goes against the wall. — Could your 
father see it ? — No. — Only you ? — Yes, because it's me 
that's asleep." 

Schi's case gives the key to all the phenomena of the 
second stage. Schi knows that the dream is made of 
" thought," and that it is ourselves who make the dream. 
But he has not yet realised that the dream is internal in 
relation to the body. In order to see it, even with the 
eyes shut, it must be " between the night and us." Schi 
is thus led to admit that the dream " comes out " as 
soon as one is asleep. We must take care not to attribute 
to Schi a theory as to the nature of this process : Schi 
limits himself to stating his immediate impression accord- 
ing to which only external objects can be seen. His reaUsm 
prevents him making any distinction between " seeming 
external " and " being external." If he regarded the 
dream as only " seeming external " he would not have 
had to situate it " against the wall," but would have 
placed it either in the head or in the objects of which he 
dreamed (at school, on the lake, etc.). Schi reaUses, how- 
ever, that he alone can see his dream. It will be re- 
membered that Schi, too, held a similar view concerning 
thought : " when you have been told something, it comes 
into your mind, then it goes out and then it comes back 
again." (Chapter I, § i). 

The following case was brought to our notice on account 



y 



no CHILD'S CONCEPTION OF THE WORLD 

of a drawing that had been made spontaneously and 
previous to any examination on our part : — 

Fav (8) belongs to a class whose teacher follows the 
excellent practice of giving each child an " observation 
notebook," in which the child notes down each day, with 
or without the help of drawings, an event he has person- 
ally observed outside school. One morning Fav noted 
down, as always, spontaneously : "I dreamt that the 
devil wanted to boil me," and he accompanied the obser- 
vation with a drawing, of which we give a reproduction : 
on the left Fav is seen in bed, in the centre is the devil, 
and on the right Fav stands, in his nightshirt, in front of 
the devil who is about to boil him. Our attention was 
called to this drawing and we sought out Fav. His draw- 
ing illustrates very clearly the meaning of child realism : 
the dream is beside the bed, before the eyes of the dreamer 
who watches it. Fav, moreover, is in his nightshirt in 
the dream, as if the devil had pulled him out of bed. 

The following are the observations we made : Concern- 
ing the origin of dreams, Fav has passed the beliefs of 
the first stage. Like Schi he knows that the dream comes 
from thought : " What is a dream ? — It is a thought. — 
Where does it come from ? — When you see something and 
then you think of it. — Do we make the dream ourselves ? — 
Yes. — Does it come from outside ? — No." Fav also knows 
that we think " with the brain, with our intelligence." 
Further, Fav, like Schi and all the children of this stage, 
knows that he alone can see his dream ; neither we nor 
anyone else could have seen the dream of the devil in 
Fav's room. But what he has not understood is the 
internal nature of the dream : " Whilst you are dreaming, 
where is the dream ?— /« front of the eyes. — Where ? — 
When you are in bed, in front of your eyes. — Where, quite 
near ? — No in the room." We pointed to Fav's portrait 
of himself which we have marked II, " What is that ? — 
That's me. — Which is most real of you, this (I) or that 
(II) ? — In the dream (pointing to II). — Is this one any- 
thing (II) ? — Yes, it's me. It was specially my eyes which 
stayed there (pointing to I), to see (!) — How were your eyes 
there ? — I was there altogether, but specially my eyes. — 
And the rest of you ? — It was there too (in the bed). — How 
could that be ? — There was two of me. I was in my bed 
and I was looking on all the time. — With the eyes open 
or shut ? — Shut, because I was asleep." A moment later 



DREAMS 



III 



it seemed as if Fav had understood the internal nature of 
the dream : " When you are asleep, is the dream in you 
or are you in the dream ? — The dream is in us, because it's 
we who see the dream. — Is it inside the head or outside ? 
— In the head. — Just now you said outside, what does 
that mean ? — You can't see the dream on the eyes. — Where 
is the dream ? — In front of the eyes. — Is there really any- 
thing in front of the eyes ? — Yes. — What ? — The dream." 
Fav thus realises there is something internal about the 



^ 

-M 



m 





dream, he knows the dream's appearance of externality 
to be illusion (" you can't see the dream on the eyes "), 
and yet he admits that for the illusion to be there, there 
must really be something in front of him : "Were you 
really there (pointing to II) ? — Yes, I was there twice over 
(I and II). — If I had been there, should I have seen you 
(II) ? — No. — What do you mean by ' I was there twice 
over ' ? — When I was in bed I was really there, and then 
when I was in my dream I was with the devil, and I was 
really there as well." 

These answers point to the following conclusions. Fav 
does not know how to distinguish the dream's appear- 
ance of externality from externality itself. He agrees 
that there must be something in the head since "it's we 
who see the dream." This marks a great advance on the 



112 CHILD'S CONCEPTION OF THE WORLD 

first stage. He even agrees that to see the dream as 
external is to suffer an illusion : " You can't see the 
dream on the eyes," that is to say that in dreaming you 
see something external and not internal. But for Fav 
this illusion is certainly not because we deceive ourselves, 
or think we se^ something outside which is, in fact, inside 
us. For him the illusion consists in our being deceived 
by material images, which exist objectively in front of 
us, but which we take not for images but for persons. He 
does not doubt the existence of these external images. 
We, as adults, say that there is false perception : he says 
there is a real perception of something deceptive. The 
dream is thus for Fav like an immaterial projection, like 
a shadow, or an image in a mirror. Otherwise it would 
be impossible to explain his spontaneous reflection," it 
was specially my eyes which stayed there (I) to see." In 
short, Fav seems to waver between contradictory state- 
ments, though perhaps for him they do not appear so. 
We have only to recall that he regards thought as a 
material substance, to understand the paradox in his 
remarks : on the one hand, we project outside something 
which arises in our heaH, and on the other, what we 
project out has a material existence in the room. 

These facts throw light on the nature of the partici- 
pations between the images of the dream and the persons 
they represent, such as we found, existing in the first 
stage. Fav, indeed, certainly seems to admit that the 
image II contains something of himself. This explains 
why he holds that it was his eyes " especially " which 
stayed in his bed {cp. Dan's expression in § i, " but all of 
myself was outside " ; cp. also Metr's expression in the 
same section, " it's I that am in the dream, it isn't in my 
head "). It goes without saying that this remark of Fav's 
is only an awkward form of expression and that he does not 
hold that behef in a dual self which ethnologists hke to attri- 
bute to primitive peoples (only do the primitives reason like 
Fav or like the ethnologists ?). But how exactly does the 
difficulty arise ? Simply because the image II is regarded 



DREAMS 113 

as external to the subject I. The participation of II and 
I thus comes from Fav's reahsm. For us there is no parti- 
cipation between the image and the person represented, 
since the image is nothing but an internal representation, 
but for a realist mind which regards the image as in the 
room, the image retains something of the person. It is 
the exact counterpart of what we saw with names, which, 
from the fact that they are not conceived as internal and 
mental objects, participate in the thing named. 

In order to show that these interpretations are not 
fantastic, we quote some further cases, not so rich as 
those of Schi and Fav but equally clear on the essential 
question of the extemaUty of the dream. 

Mos (11 ; 6) describes the dream as " something you 
think when you are asleep and, that you see. — Where does it 
come from ? — It is something you've thought during the day. 
Where is the dream ? — In front of you. — Can one see it ? — 
Oh, no I — Why not ? — It's invisible (this statement is 
very convincing and shows that Mos is not speaking of 
images one thmks one sees outside, but of something 
invisible which is projected byjthought and which pro- 
duces the images outside). — Is it in front of the eyes ? — 
No. — Where ? — A little further away. — Where ? — It is 
things which pass by and which you don't see." 

MiTH (7^) : " You know what it is to dream ? — Yes.' — 
What do we dream with ? — With the eyes. — Where does 
it come from ? — The heart ? — Where is the dream while 
you are dreaming ? — In the dream, in the mind {dans 
notre conscience). — Is it reaUy and truly there ? — No. — 
Where is it ? — OtUside. — Where ? — In the room." 

Card (9^) : The dream is " when you think the house is 
on fire, when you think you are going to be burned. — Is the 
dream true ? — No, because you're asleep. — What is it ? — 
It's fire. It's when you think of something. — Where does 
the dream come from ? — The head. — What do you dream 
with ? — When you think. — What with ? — The intelligence. — 
Where is the dream ? — In the bed. — Is it inside us or in 
front of us ? — In the room. — Where ? — Quite near. — Have 
you just found that out ? — No, I knew it already." 

Gren (13 ; 6, backward) : " Where does the dream 
come from ? — When you think." It comes " from us " 

H 



114 CHILD'S CONCEPTION OF THE WORLD 

(Gren points to his forehead). " Where is the dream ? — 
Here (pointing to 30 cms. in front of his eyes)." 

Kenn (7^) : The dream is when "you make up things." 
It comes from " the mouth. — Are your eyes open or shut 
when you dream ? — Shut. — Should I see the dream if 
I were there ? — No. You don't see it because it isn't near 
you. — Why don't you see it ? — Because it isn't near us. — 
Where is it ? — Not near us. — Where is it ? — Further away. — 
Where do you think ? . . . — It comes towards us." " Where 
do they come from ? — The mouth. — When you dream of 
school, where is the dream ? — At school, because it's as if 
you were at school. — Is the dream really at school or is it 
only as if it were at school ? — It is at school. — Really and 
truly ? — No. — Is it at school or in your mouth ? — In my 
mouth. — You said it was far away. Is that true or not 
true ? — It's far away." 

ZiMM (8 ; i) contrary to Kenn does not beheve the 
dream to be at school but places it in front of his eyes. 
When he dreams of school, Zimm says : " / think I'm 
there. — When you dream, is the dream at school or inside 
you ? — In my room ? " 

Bar (7) is a similar case. Dreams " come from us. — 
When you dream you are at school, where is the dream ? 
— In front of me. — Outside you ? — Yes. — In the room ? — 
In front of me." 

The above examples show how httle the discovery that 
the dream is due to thought modifies the phenomena of 
locahsation observed in the first stage. Thus although 
Kenn may say he dreams with the mouth, he gives, as 
the proof that another person could not see his dream, 
the fact that the dream is situated at the place it is about. 
Our counter-suggestions made no difference. Naturally, 
Kenn does not suppose that the dream actually takes 
the dreamer " to school " ; he simply beUeves that the 
image of the school, the image seen in the dream, is " at 
school," just as children of his age think that, when they 
speak, the name of the sun is " in the sun." However, 
for the majority of children in the second stage the dream 
is close to them, usually 30 cms. in front of their eyes. 

But before regarding these interpretations as certain, 
we must, according to our usual criterion, first question 



DREAMS 115 

more advanced children who are on the point of reaching 
the conect answer, to see if they were really the victims 
of the illusions we seemed to find among the youngest. 
The following three cases are of this type : — 

Drap (15, but rather backward) stated spontaneously 
when answering the question on thought : " Can one see 
thought ? — Yes, in dreaming. — Why ? — You dream some- 
thing and you see it in front of you." We then continued 
along the line suggested by Drap : " What do you dream 
with ? — With the memory. — Where is the dream ? — Not 
in any place. — Where is it, in your head or in front of you ? 
— In front. You can see it, hut you can't touch it. — Why 
in front ? — Because if it was inside you wouldn't see it 
{op. the remark of Barb in the first stage)." 

Drap seems more advanced than the preceding cases in 
saying the dream is " not in any place." But he simply 
means by this that it is immaterial. The context shows 
clearly that he still beheves the dream to be in front of 
him. The proof lies in what follows : — 

We tried to make Drap understand the internal nature 
of the dream : " Now you see me, and you remember that 
you saw me last year. You remember my face ? — Yes. 
— Where is what you remember ? — In front of my eyes. 
— Why ? — Because you can't see inside the head. It is as 
if (!) it was in front of me." After having understood the 
difference between being and seeming (" as if "), Drap 
finally agrees that the image is in the head. He says then 
that he understands for the first time that the dream is 
in the head. 

His surprise at the explanation clearly shows that 
previously he had not been able to distinguish " being '' 
from " seeming." 

Pug (7:2): The dream is " when you see things that 
aren't true. — Who told you that ? — No one. — Where do 
dreams come from ? — / don't know. — From the head or 
from outside ? — From the head. — Where is the dream ? — 
In front of you. — Where ? — Quite near (pointing to 30 
cms. from his eyes). — Is it really there or does it seem to 
be there ? — / don't know. — Should I see it if I were there ? 
— No, because you wouldn't he asleep. — And could your 



ii6 CHILD'S CONCEPTION OF THE WORLD 

mother see it ? — No. — But then you say it is outside ? — No, 
it is not outside. — Where is it ? — Nowhere. — Why ? — It isnt 
anything. — Is it outside or in the head ? — In the head. — 
Then it isn't in front of you. — Yes, it is in front of me all 
the same (!) " — " Is the dxeam inside your head? — Yes. — 
Then it isn't in front of you ? — Yes, it is everywhere." 

This case shows how Uttle effect suggestion has on a 
child at this stage. Pug is wiUing to admit that the dream 
is in the head, but he continues to beUeve it is outside 
and everywhere. His case is precisely parallel with that 
of Roc (Chapter II, § 2) concerning names : Roc is wiUing 
to admit that names are in the head, but he none the less 
believes them to be present in the room. 

Grand (8) : " You know what it is to dream ? — Once 
I saw a man who frightened me in the day and I dreamed 
of it at night. — Where does a dream come from ? Where 
is it made ? — In the head. — Where is the dream while you 
are dreaming ? — . . . — In the head or outside ? — It seems (!) 
as if it's outside." Grand thus seems to regard the 
external nature of the dream as an illusion. But we then 
asked : " Where is the dream ? — Neither outside nor inside. 
— Where then ? — In the room. — Where ? — All round me. 
— Far or quite near ? — Quite near, when my brother dreams 
he shivers." 

Since the dream made Grand's brother shiver it must 
be something, immaterial perhaps, but external. The 
rest of the examination, as we shall see, placed Grand in 
the third stage, by a sudden break with what had gone 
before. 

These last cases in which the child reasons and seeks, 
evidently show that it is not simply through lack of 
verbal capacity that children of the second stage say 
the dream is in the room. They clearly distinguish 
" being " from " seeming." They doubt the external 
nature of the dream yet without it they can find no ex- 
planation of how one can " see something " : " you can't 
see what is inside the head I " 

In short, the realism of the second stage is much subtler 
than that of the first. It is a more intellectual, less 



DREAMS 117 

obvious realism. But, as such, it confirms our inter- 
pretations of the phenomena of the first stage. In fact, 
if the essential discovery that the dream is due to the 
thinking subject be suppressed from the statements of 
the second stage, there remain the following : (i) that 
the dream is external ; (2) that in so far as the image of 
a person is not a subjective representation on the part 
of the sleeper, it must be bound up with that person 
through participation. This is just what we saw and 
what we found traces of right through the second stage. 

§ 3. The Third Stage : the Dream is Internal 
AND OF Internal Origin. — There are two problems still 
to be discussed : the manner in which images come 
increasingly to be regarded as internal and the child's 
views on the connection between thought and dreams. 

Some intermediate cases between the second and third 
stages must first be considered. 

Grand (8) is especially interesting, for after supporting 
the external nature of the dream on grounds which we 
have already seen, he arrives spontaneously at the follow- 
ing idea : " When I make my eyes turn (by rubbing them), 
/ see a sort of head inside them (phosphene). — Is the dream 
inside or outside ? — / think it's neither beside me nor in 
my room. — Where is it ? — In my eyes." 

Pasq (yh) '. " Where is the dream when you are dream- 
ing, in the room or in you ? — In me. — Did you make it 
or does it come from outside ? — / made it. — What do you 
dream with ? — The eyes. — When you dream, where is the 
dream ? — In the eyes. — Is it in the eye or behind the eye ? 
— In the eye." 

Falq (7:3): " Where do dreams come from ? — In the 
eyes. — Where is the dream ? — In the eyes. — Show me 
where ? — Behind there (pointing to the eye).— Is a dream 
the same as a thought ? — No, it is something. — What ? — 
A story. — If one could see behind the eyes, would one 
see anything ? — No, it's a little skin. — What is on this 
skin ? — Little things, little pictures." 

It is interesting to note that Grand and Falq are amongst 
those children who beheve thought to be " a voice in the 
head." It wiU be remembered that children at first be- 



ii8 CHILD'S CONCEPTION OF THE WORLD 

Heve they think with the mouth and identify thought 
with words and regard names as bound up with the 
things themselves. Then, when they realise that thought 
is internal, they first regard it as a " voice " situated at 
the back of the mouth, in the head. Exactly the same 
hapjjens to their conceptions of the dream. The dream 
is first an external picture, produced by things, then by 
the head. Later, when the child begins to reaUse the 
internal nature of the dream, he regards it as a picture 
— according to Falq, as a " story," imprinted in the eye 
or behind the eye — in short, what the eye can " see " 
internally, just as the ear " hears " the internal voice of 
thought. 

In the case of dreams as in that of speech, the thought 
is thus still confused with physical matter. Even the 
most advanced children, that is to say cases definitely 
belonging to the third stage, who regard the dream simply 
as thought and as internal thought, still frequently let 
out remarks betraying the material nature of this thought. 

Tann (8) : " Where do dreams come from ? — When you 
shut the eyes ; instead of it's being night, you see things. — 
Where are they ? — Nowhere. They aren't real. They're 
in the eyes. — Do dreams come from within you or from 
outside ? — From outside. When you go for a walk and 
you see something, it makes a mark on the forehead in little 
drops of blood. — What happens when you are asleep ? — 
You see it. — Is the dream inside the head or outside ? — 
It comes from outside, and when you dream of it, it comes 
from the head. — Where are the images when you are 
dreaming ? — From inside the brain they come into the eyes. 
— Is there anything in front of the eyes ? — No." 

Step (7 J) : The dream is " in my head. — In your head 
or in front of your eyes ? — In front of my eyes. No, it is in 
my head." But the dream is " when you talk to yourself 
quite alone and then you sleep. — Where does the dream 
come from ? — When you speak alone." 

Tann is evidently full of adult ideas, but the way in 
which he has absorbed them is none the less interesting. 

The following cases are more advanced and have given 
up trjdng to materialise thought and internal images. 



DREAMS 119 

They must, therefore, be placed in the third stage that 
we distinguished concerning thought. It may be noted 
also that these children are about the age of 10 or 11, 
which confirms the age we found for this stage. 

Ross (9 ; 9) : The dream is " when you think of some- 
thing. — Where is the dream ? Is it in front of you ? — 
In my head. — As if there were pictures in your head ? 
How does that happen ? — No, you see a picture of what 
you've done earlier." 

Vise (11 ; i) : You dream " with the head," and the 
dream is " in the head. — It isn't in front ? — It's as if (!) 
you qould see. — Is there anything in front of you ? — 
Nothing. — What is there in your head ? — Thoughts — Do 
the eyes see anything in the head ? — No." 

BoucH (11 ; 10) : " If you dream that you are dressed, 
you see a picture. Where is it 7— I'm dressed like other 
people, then it (the picture) is in my head, hut you'd think (!) 
it was in front of you." 

Cell (10 ; 7) also says : "It seems as if I see it (the 
house) in front of me, hut it's in my head." 

These examples show how differently these children 
react, when faced by the same or even more suggestive 
questions, from the children of the earlier stages. Such 
expressions as " you think that," " it seems as if," " it's 
as if," to describe the seemingly external nature of the 
dream, are new and very characteristic of this stage. 

§ 4. Conclusions. — It remains to disentangle the 
relations existing between the results just analysed, and 
the results of our study of names and of the notion of 
thought. The relationship is very close and there is a 
remarkable parallelism between the two groups of pheno- 
mena. Children's ideas on thought and on words seem 
to be characterised by three varieties of realism — or, if 
it be preferred, three " adualisms." All three are also 
present in the case of dreams and gradually disappear in 
the same order as with names. 

Firstly, children confuse the sign with the thing signified, 
or the mental object and the thing it represents. Con- 
cerning thought in general, the idea and the name of the 
sun, for example, are regarded as a part of the sun and 



120 CHILD'S CONCEPTION OF THE WORLD 

as having their origin in the sun. To touch the name 
of the sun would be to touch the sun itself. With 
dreams we found the case very similar ; the image 
dreamed of is felt to come from the thing or person the 
image represents. The dream of a man who has been 
run over comes from the man himself, etc. Further, when 
the dream is of school the dream is "at school," just as 
when the sun is thought of, the word or name thought 
are " in the sun." The confusion is thus between the 
dream and the thing dreamed of. 

In both cases, this realism gives rise to feelings of 
participation. The name of the sun appears to the child 
to imply the heat, the colour, the shape of the sun. By 
direct participation the name passes to and fro like a 
shuttlecock between the sun and us. In Uke manner the 
dream of a man who has been run over seems to come 
from the man himself and above all it comes charged with 
emotion, " to pay us out, ' or " because we've done some- 
thing we ought not to have done," etc. 

But the confusion between sign and thing signified 
disappears earlier in the case of the dream than in the 
case of names and thoughts, for the simple reason that 
the dream is deceptive, which forces the sign to cut itself 
adrift from the things it represents. It is, moreover, 
this deceptive and frightening character of dreams 
which explains why the participations have such a much 
stronger affective tone in the case of dreams than in that 
of names. 

The second confusion is between internal and external. 
In the most primitive stage, words are situated in things, 
then everywhere and particularly in the surrounding air, 
then in the mouth alone and finally in the head. Dreams 
follow a precisely similar course : first, they are in the 
things (but not for long, owing to the circumstances 
referred to above), then they are situated in the room, 
even when their origin is known to be the head (just as 
words are situated in the surrounding air, even when 
their source is the mouth) ; finally, dreams are described 



DREAMS 121 

as in the eyes and ultimately as in the head and in thought 
itself. 

In the case of thought, this confusion between internal 
and external gives rise, in the primitive stages, to para- 
doxical behefs, such as that according to which thought 
is a whisper situated at the same time in the head and 
outside. Children's ideas on dreams entirely confirm this 
interpretation ; for certain of them the dream is a voice 
or air that is both external and internal. 

Finally, the third variety of realism gives rise to a con- 
fusion between thought and matter. Thought is, for 
those children who have set themselves the question, a 
whisper, if they suppose thought to be with the voice. 
It can also be a smoke, since sometimes respiration is 
confused with voice. The dream, for such children as 
have considered the question, is equally of air or of smoke. 
For the youngest who have not yet reaUsed the subjective 
origin of dreams (first stage) it is simply " of night," or 
" of Ught." 

In studying the child's conceptions of names we arrived 
at the conclusion that the confusion between sign and 
thing signified was the first to disappear (about the age 
of 7-8). This disappearance leads to the distinction be- 
tween internal and external (about 9-10) and finally from 
this distinction arises the idea that thought is something 
other than a material substance. The process is yet 
clearer as regards conceptions of the dream. The con- 
fusion between the image and the corresponding object 
disappears very early (5-6). As it disappears the dream 
is no longer situated in things, and the distinction between 
internal and external is thus already suggested and 
becomes complete at about the age of 9-10 (beginning of 
third stage). Finally, it is not till about 11 that this 
distinction between internal and external leads the child 
definitely to understand that the dream is not a material 
image, but simply a thought. 

There is thus a complete parallelism between the child's 
conceptions of names and of thought and its conceptions 



122 CHILD'S CONCEPTION OF THE WORLD 

concerning dreams. But, it goes without saying, that 
during the primitive stages, the children themselves see 
no analogy nor connection between the dream and the 
word. Neither images nor names are regarded as mental 
objects and they can thus have no relationship in the 
child's eyes. The similarity of the phenomena observed in 
the two cases, and of the steps in the evolution of these 
phenomena is thus a guarantee of the worth of our experi- 
ments and their interpretation. These certainly still need 
confirming by the repetition of the experiments in different 
countries in order that the part played by adult influences 
may be more definitely separated from the spontaneous 
and constant conviction of the child. But such com- 
parisons as we have been able to make from amongst 
our material at Geneva, and from the answers collected 
by Mile Ferret at Neufch^tel and in the Bernese Jura, 
and those obtained at Madrid and at Santander by Mile 
Rodrigo lead us to believe that the constancy and spon- 
taneity with which we have credited the child preponder- 
ates over the effect of adult influence. 



CHAPTER IV 

REALISM AND THE ORIGIN OF THE 
IDEA OF PARTICIPATION 

The aim of this chapter is to trace the consequences of 
the realism analysed in the preceding chapters. It is first, 
however, necessary to state definitely the real significance 
of our researches on the notion of thought, nominal realism 
and dreams ; since otherwise the interpretation of our 
material may give rise to the gravest misconceptions. The 
impression may have been formed that we endow children, 
if not with actual theories, at any rate with clear and 
spontaneously formulated ideas, as to the nature of thought 
and of names and dreams. But nothing has been further 
from our intention. We readily agree that children have 
never or hardly ever reflected on the matters on which 
they were questioned. The experiments aimed, therefore, 
not at examining ideas the children had already thought 
out, but at seeing how their ideas are formed in response 
to certain questions and principally in what direction 
their spontaneous attitude of mind tends to lead them. 

In such circumstances the results can only be negative 
and not positive. That is to say the explanation a child 
gives in answer to one of our questions must not be taken 
as an example of " a child's ideas," but serves simply to 
show that the child did not seek the solution in the same 
direction as we should have, but presupposed certain 
implicit postulates different from those we should suppose. 

It is these presuppositions alone that interest us here 
and we shall henceforth therefore take no account of the 
detail of the preceding results (since this detail is not 

123 



124 CHILD'S CONCEPTION OF THE WORLD 

necessarily to be accepted at its face value) and retain 
simply the following conclusion. The child is a realist, 
since he supposes thought to be inseparable from its object, 
names from the things named, and dreams to be external. 
His realism consists in a spontaneous and immediate 
tendency to confuse the sign and the thing signified, 
internal and external, and the psychical and the physical. 

The results of this realism are twofold. Firstly, the 
limits the child draws between the self and the external 
world are much less rigid than our own ; secondly, the 
realism is further extended by " participations " and 
spontaneous ideas of a magical nature. 

This is the subject of the following sections. 

§ I. Realism and the Consciousness of Self. — 
The problem of the child's consciousness of self is ex- 
tremely complex and it is not easy to treat it from a 
general standpoint. To arrive at a synthesis it would be 
necessary to undertake inquiries similar to those we have 
just concluded on thought, names and dreams, for all the 
contents of a child's consciousness. The problem must, 
however, be faced since the questions of participation and 
of magical causality are directly dependent on it. 

We shall follow a method of regression, and limit our- 
selves to determining the curve of transformation of the 
processes studied in the preceding chapters and tracing it 
back to where we may conjecture what were the original 
stages. The method, though dangerous, seems the only 
one possible. 

Two conclusions may be drawn from the preceding 
analyses. The first is that the child is no less conscious of 
the content of his thought than we are of ours. He has 
noted the existence of thoughts, of names and of dreams, 
and a quantity of more or less subtle particularities. One 
child stated that we dream of what interests us, another 
that when we think of things, it is because " we want to 
have them," another that he dreamed of his aunt because 
he was so glad to see her again. Mostly children think 
they dream because they have been frightened by some- 



REALISM AND IDEA OF PARTICIPATION 125 

thing, etc. Further, there is present in the chOd a whole 
extremely deUcate psychology, often very shrewd and 
pointing in every case to a keen appreciation of its affective 
life. In a preceding work {Judgment and Reason Chapter IV, 
§ i) we maintained that the child's efforts at introspection 
are extremely crude, but this does not in the least contradict 
the present contention. It is possible to feel acutely the 
results of a mental process (logical reasoning or affective 
reasoning) without knowing how such a result came about. 
This is precisely the case with the child and is what is 
meatit when the child's " intuition " is spoken of ; a true 
perception of the contents of consciousness but no know- 
ledge of how these contents were acquired, such is the 
paradox of this " intuition." 

This paradox is closely related to the following facts. 
The child may be aware of the same contents of thought 
as ourselves but he locates them elsewhere. He situates 
in the world or in others what' we seat within ourselves, 
and he situates in himself what we place in others. In this 
problem of the seat of the contents of mind lies the whole 
problem of the child's consciousness of self, and it is through 
not stating it clearly that what is in fact exceedingly 
complex is made to appear simple. It is indeed possible 
to suppose a mind extremely sensitive to the least stirrings 
of the affective hfe, a keen observer of the niceties of 
language, customs and conduct in general, yet hardly 
conscious of his own self, since he systematically treats 
each of his thoughts as objective and every feeUng as 
common to all. The consciousness of self arises in fact 
from the dissociation of reahty as conceived by the 
primitive mind and not from the association of particular 
contents. That the child shows a keen interest in himself, 
a logical, and no doubt a moral, egocentricity, does not 
prove that he is conscious of his self, but suggests, on the 
contrary, that he confuses his self with the universe, in 
other words that he is unconscious of his self. This is 
what we shall attempt to prove. 

In the preceding chapters we dealt only with the in- 



126 CHILD'S CONCEPTION OF THE WORLD 

struments of thought (percepts, images, words, etc.) and 
not with actual conceptions nor above all with the affective 
life. The child is almost as well aware of these instruments 
as we are but he gives them an entirely different setting. 
For us» an idea or a word is in the mind and the thing it 
represents is in the world of sense perception. Also words 
and certain ideas are in the mind of everybody, whilst other 
ideas are peculiar to one's own thought. For the child, 
thoughts, images and words, though distinguished to a 
certain degree from things, are none the less situated in 
the things. The continuous steps of this evolution may 
be assigned to four phases : (i) a phase of absolute realism, 
during which no attempt is made to distinguish the in- 
struments of thought and where objects alone appear to 
exist ; (2) a phase of immediate realism, during which the 
instruments of thought are distinguished from the things 
but are situated in the things ; (3) a phase of mediate 
realism, during which the instruments of thought are still 
regarded as a kind of things and are situated both in the 
body and in the surrounding air ; and finally (4), a phase 
of subjectivism or relativism, during which the instruments 
of thought are situated within ourselves. In this sense 
then, the child begins by confusing his self — or his thought 
— with the world, and then comes to distinguish the two 
terms one from each other. 

It seems that we might extend this law even to the 
contents of the conceptions, including the simplest per- 
ceptions. During the primitive stage, the child feels every 
conception to be absolute, as if the mind and the thing 
were one, and only gradually comes to regard the con- 
ception as relative to a given point of view. Thus in a 
new sense, the child begins by confusing his self and the 
world — that is to say in this particular case, his subjective 
point of view and the external data — and only later dis- 
tinguishes his own personal point of view from other 
possible points of view. In fact the child always begins 
by regarding his own point of view as absolute. We shall 
see numerous examples later : the child thinks the sun 



REALISM AND IDEA OF PARTICIPATION 127 

follows him, that the clouds follow him, that things are 
always as he actually sees them and independent of per- 
spective, distance, etc. ... In so far as he ignores that 
his own point of view is subjective he believes himself the 
centre of the world, whence follow a whole group of 
finalistic, animistic and quasi-magical conceptions, ex- 
amples of which occur on every page. These conceptions 
alone point to the child's ignorance of the fact of sub- 
jectivity. 

But to be aware of the subjectivity of one's own point 
of view is relatively an insignificant element in the con- 
sciousness of self. This is essentially a feeling of the 
personal quality of one's desires, incUnations, affections, 
etc. Yet in relation to these does the child feel its first 
experiences of pleasure and pain, its first desires, as 
personal or as common to all ? The probabihty is that the 
same law holds good here and that the child starts by being 
convinced for the simple reason that it has never occurred 
to it to doubt that everything it feels exists by itself, 
objectively. It is by a series of disillusions and through 
being contradicted by others that it comes to reahse the 
subjectivity of feehng. Here again the self results from 
the dissociation of the primitive consciousness ; the 
primitive consciousness or unconsciousness that a certain 
state is either pleasurable or painful is directly projected 
into the surrounding world of reality, first through absolute 
realism and then through immediate reahsm, and it is not 
until this reahty becomes broken up that the feeling 
arises of a given object and a subjective emotion which 
gives it its personal value. 

In short, to make a broad conjecture and without going 
into any detail owing to lack of direct evidence, it seems 
that in the primitive stage the whole content of the infant's 
consciousness is projected into reality (both into things 
and into others), which amoupts to a complete absence 
of the consciousness of self. Three groups of observations 
point in this direction. 

Firstly, it is not possible to separate the conceptual 



128 CHILD'S CONCEPTION OF THE WORLD 

from the affective elements. However primitive a feeling 
may be, it is accompanied by the consciousness of an 
object or it itself creates an object. But, it has already 
been asserted as a result of the phenomena observed in 
the preceding chapters, that in the primitive state every 
conception is reaUstic. 

Secondly, the work of Baldwin and stiU more that of 
Pierre Janet has made it clear that imitation is due to a 
sort of confusion between the self and others. In other 
words, the sound a child hears stimulates him to make the 
necessary movement to continue it, without the child 
seeing any difference between the sound that is independent 
of him and the sound he has produced. The same thing 
constantly happens to us in cases of involuntary imitation 
when we identify ourselves with what we are imitating 
without realising how much belonged originally to the 
thing we are imitating and how much we have ourselves 
endowed it with. We discussed in Chapter I, j§ 3) 
the case of children who think they have themselves 
discovered what they have as a matter of fact been taught 
by others. Inversely, children always believe that things 
which they do not know and have never known, they have 
merely " forgotten." All that a child knows appears to it 
to be its own discovery and what it does not know it 
regards as forgotten. It would seem as if these phenomena 
were due to hypertrophy of the sentiment of self-esteem ; 
as a matter of fact they are simply signs of the absence of 
any clear distinction between external and internal. 
Imitation is impossible without projection, and this being 
so, the reciprocal must also be true : the aims and desires 
of the self must be attributed to others just as much as 
the actions of others are attributed to the self. 

Finally and most important, we know that an infant 
does not spontaneously locahse its organic sensations. A 
pain in the foot does not immediately draw its attention 
to the foot, etc. It is rather a wandering pain which is 
not localised and which every one is thought to share. 
Even when localised the infant no doubt for a long time 



REALISM AND IDEA OF PARTICIPATION 129 

still regards it as common to all ; it cannot spontaneously 
realise that it alone is able to feel the pain. In short, 
for the primitive consciousness and for us the relation 
between the body viewed from outside and the body felt 
from inside is entirely different : what we speak of as 
internal and what we speak of as external are for a long 
time equally regarded as common to aU. 

Unfortunately, it is impossible to control these hj^- 
theses by a direct analysis. But if we use the results 
obtained from between the limits of 4 and 12 years of age 
as a basis of inference in respect of ages below these limits 
it seems to show that consciousness of the internal nature 
of any state does not result from a direct intuition but 
from an intellectual construction, and this construction 
is only p>ossible by a dissociation of the contents of the 
primitive consciousness. 

Moreover, though the analysis of the primitive con- 
sciousness is impossible without hypothesis, the dissociation 
just mentioned can be more directly observed. One of 
Edmund Gosse's memories of childhood is a valuable case 
in point. As the result of teUing a lie which was neither 
discovered nor punished, Edmund Gosse came to realise 
that his father did not know everything, and it was this 
knowledge that certain things were known to him alone 
which seems to have strengthened in him the consciousness 
of self. 

" In the first place, the theory that my Father was om- 
niscient or infallible was now dead and buried. He probably 
knew very little ; in this case he had not known a fact of 
such importance that if you did not know that, it could 
hardly matter what you knew. . . . But of all the thoughts 
which rushed upon my savage and undeveloped little brain 
at this crisis, the most curious was that I had found a com- 
panion and a confidant in myself. There was a secret in 
this world and it belonged to me and to a somebody who 
lived in the same body with me. There were two of us and 
we could talk to one another. It is difficult to define im- 
pressions so rudimentary, but it is certain that it was in this 
dual form that the sense of my individuality now suddenly 



130 CHILD'S CONCEPTION OF THE WORLD 

descended upon me and it is equally certain that it was a 
great solace to me to find a sympathiser in my own breast." 

The quotation is of striking interest. So long as the 
child believed in his father's omniscience, his own self was 
non-existent, in the sense that his thoughts and actions 
seemed to him common to all, or at any rate known to his 
parents to the smallest detail. The moment he realised 
that his parents did not know all, he straightway dis- 
covered the existence of his subjective self. Certainly the 
discovery was made late and only concerns the higher 
plane of personality. But it shows clearly how the con- 
sciousness of self results from a dissociation of reality and 
is not a primitive intuition, and shows also to what extent 
this dissociation is due to social factors, that is to say to 
a distinction the child makes between his own point of 
view and that of others. 

In deahng with the relations between the body viewed 
as external, and felt as internal, it may be of interest to 
consider again the child's use of the first person. It is 
well known that children speak of themselves in the third 
person before they use the pronoun " I." The idiot 
described by H. Wallon ^ when receiving correction said, 
" See what Fernand's getting " (" Femand " being himself). 
So too a little girl observed by the author said at the age 
of 2 ; 9 : " T'es une 'moiselle, 'spas, moi ? " — meaning " I 
am a girl, aren't I ? " but literally " you are a girl aren't 
you, me ? " Baldwin and many others regard this as 
evidence of a projective stage : the child sees itself as 
outside its thought, as " projected " in a mirror in front 
of its own eyes and without experiencing any feeUng of 
subjectivity. This interpretation has been much disputed. 
Rasmussen sees in it merely the child's imitation of those 
it knows, who obviously use the child's name and not the 
pronoun "I." M. Delacroix, in his admirable book, Le 
Langage et la pensee, regards the " I " merely as an 
instrument of grammar. 

But it seems that behind the grammatical question 
there is also a question of the logic of relations. As late 
as the ages of 8 and g, a child will say "I've a brother, 

' Journal de Psychologte, Vol. VIII (1911), p. 436. 



REALISM AND IDEA OF PARTICIPATION 131 

Paul," and conclude from it that Paul has not a brother 
(see Judgment and Reasoning Chapters II and III), because 
he fails to distinguish his own point of view from that of 
others. May not the same be true of the use of the first 
person ? The difficulty the child here experiences affects 
in fact all the possessive terms. Egger noticed how when 
he said to a child of i ; 6, " show me my nose, my mouth, 
etc." the child pointed to its own, and to be understood 
he had to say " show me Daddy's nose," etc. 

Viewed in this Hght the phenomenon is interesting. 
Naturally the child who speaks of himself in the third 
person, situates what he speaks of within his body. But 
he may not have understood that the conception he has 
of himself is different from that which others may have. 
When he speaks of himself he certainly makes no attempt 
to place himself in the position of someone else, but he 
beUeves himself to be seeing from the only possible point 
of view, the absolute point of view. This fact is important. 
It shows that Femand's experience of pain and the 
judgment he makes on it are not for him equally internal. 
Only the pain is in his own body, whilst his judgment is 
made from an undifferentiated point of view that is 
common to all. Femand does not realise that it is he 
who is judging of himself. If he had been asked where 
was his " self," he would have indicated only half of his 
consciousness, the half which felt the pain, but not the 
half which watched the other suffer. 

In short, the child who speaks of himself in the third 
person has undoubtedly already in some degree the feeling 
of " self " — it seems evident that Baldwin has exaggerated 
here — though he may not yet be aware of the " I," if by 
" I " we follow William James and mean that element of 
the self which watches the life of the rest. This fact alone 
is enough to confirm what we stated previously of the 
difficulty the child experiences in establishing the limits 
between his own internal world and the world that is 
common to all. 

§ 2. Participation and Magical Practices. — In the 
preceding pages we dealt at some length with the par- 
ticular nature of the child's consciousness of self because we 
regard the phenomena involved as of primary importance 
in revealing the origins of causality. The most primitive 
forms of causahty found in the child seem, in fact, due to 



132 CHILD'S CONCEPTION OF THE WORLD 

confusion between reality and thought, or more accurately, 
to a constant assimilation of external processes to schemas 
arising from internal experience. This is what the two 
following sections will attempt to outline, though the idea 
will be more fully developed in a later work. In the present 
section we shall restrict ourselves to enumerating certain 
cases marked by feelings of participation or of magic, and 
simply to stating the more systematic cases we have been 
able to observe during the researches of which we shall 
treat later. 

Following the definition of M. Levy-Bruhl, we shaU give 
the name " participation " to that relation which primitive 
thought beheves to exist between two beings or two 
phenomena which it regards either as partially identical 
or as having a direct influence on one another, although 
there is no spatial contact nor inteUigible causal connec- 
tion between them. The appUcation of this conception to 
the child's thought may be disputed, but it is merely a 
question of words. It may be that the child's idea of 
"participation" differs from that of the primitive, but 
they resemble one another, and this is sufficient to authorise 
us in choosing our vocabulary from among the expressions 
which have been found most adequate in describing 
primitive thought. There is no intention of suggesting the 
identity of the different forms of participation that may 
be distinguished. 

We shall use the term " magic " for the use the indi- 
vidual believes he can make of such participation to modify 
reality. All magic supposes a participation, but the 
reverse is not true. Here again the use of the term " magic" 
may be regretted in speaking of the child, but absolutely 
no identity is impUed between the child's magic and the 
magic of the primitive. 

It is further necessary to distinguish j>articipation and 
magic from the child's animistic behefs, that is to say from 
his tendency to endow inanimate things with life and 
consciousness. The two groups of phenom"na are closely 
related. For example many children believe the sun 



REALISM AND IDEA OF PARTICIPATION 133 

follows them. When the emphasis is on the spontaneity 
of the sun's action, it is a case of animism. When they 
believe it is they who make the sun move, it is a question 
of participation and magic. Obviously they are very 
similar beliefs, but it is worth distinguishing them since 
we shall be led to the conclusion that animism is derived 
from participation and not vice versa. At any rate it is 
just at the time when the feelings of participation arise 
from the differentation of the self and the external world, 
that the self assumes magical powers and that in return, 
beings are endowed with consciousness and life. 

The attempt must now be made to classify the different 
types of participation manifested by the child and the 
magical practices to which certain of them give rise. 
From this Hst must naturally be excluded all that belongs 
strictly to play.. Play is continuously interwoven with 
participations, but they are of a type unrelated to con- 
viction and they must therefore be disregarded. 

Participations and magical practices may be classified 
from the point of view of the content and dominating 
interest or from the point of view of the structure of the 
causal relationship. From the point of view of the content, 
magical relationship may be connected with fear, remorse 
{e.g. in connection with onanism), desire and fourthly with 
the feelings of order governing nature. These four interests 
will be clearly marked in the examples which follow later, 
but in the present case a classification from the point of 
view of structure will prove most useful and we shall 
therefore group the examples we have been able to collect 
into the following four categories : — 

(i) Firstly, there is magic by participation between actions 
and things. The child performs some action or mental 
operation (counting, etc.), and believes that this action or 
operation exercises, through participation, an influence 
on a particular event he either desires or fears. These 
actions tend to become symbolical, in the sense that they 
become detached from their primitive context, just as 
conditioned reflexes become detached from their objects 



134 CHILD'S CONCEPTION OF THE WORLD 

and become mere signs. (2) There is magic by partici- 
pation between thought and things, when the child is under 
the impression that reality can be modified by a thought, 
a word, or a look, etc. ; or a psychological characteristic, 
such as laziness, for example, may be materialised, and a 
lazy person regarded as giving out a substance or force 
which can act of its own accord. Here again the partici- 
pation between thought and things gives rise to actions 
which tend to become symboUcal. (3) There is magic by 
participation between objects, when two or more things are 
regarded as exerting influence on one another, attracting 
or repulsing one another, etc., by simple participation, 
and the magic consists in using one of these things to 
influence the others. (4) Finally, there is magic by partici- 
pation of purpose. In this case objects are regarded as 
living and purposive. There is animism. The participation 
consists in beUeving that the wUl of one object can act 
of itself on that of others and the magic Hes in making use 
of this participation. The most common form is magic by 
commandment, e.g. ordering the clouds or sun to go away. 
In the last two cases also, there is sometimes a tendency 
towards symboUsm. 

We shall now give some examples of the first group, 
that of magic produced by action. Naturally, it is only 
memories of childhood that we have been able to collect, 
since children are chary of speaking of their magic during 
the period when they practise it. We shall quote first of 
all an interesting case which it is true overlaps into both 
the first and second groups but which shows emphatically 
to what lengths the child's magic can go. 

This is the case of Edmund Gosse. The detailed and 
moving autobiography of Father and Son certainly makes 
it clear that a leaning towards magic was the last thing 
to be naturally supposed from this child's education. His 
parents had strictly forbidden all imaginative hfe. He 
was never told stories. His only reading was either pious 
or scientific. His religion was rigidly moral and devoid 
of all mysticism. He had no friends. But through lack of 



REALISM AND IDEA OF PARTICIPATION 135 

poetry or concrete education, the child's intellectual 
activity broke out between the ages of 5 and 6 with a 
wealth of magic, which seems to have been singularly rich : — 

" Being as restricted, then, and yet as active my mind took 
refuge in an infantile species of natural magic. This con- 
tended with the definite ideas of religion which my parents 
were continuing, with too mechanical a persistency , to force 
into my nature and it ran parallel with them. I formed 
strange superstitions, which I can only render intelligible 
by naming some concrete examples. I persuaded myself that 
%f I could only discover the proper words to say or the proper 
passes to make, I could induce the gorgeous birds and 
butterflies in my Father's illustrated manuals to come to 
life and fly out of the book, leaving holes behind them. 
I believed, that, when at the Chapel, we sang, drearily and 
slowly, loud hymns of experience and humiliation, I could 
boom forth with a sound equal to that of dozens of singers, 
if I could only hit upon the formula. During morning 
and evening prayers, which were extremely lengthy and 
fatiguing, I fancied that one of my two selves could flit 
up, and sit clinging to the cornice, and look down on my 
other self and the rest of us, if I could only find the key. 
I laboured for hours in search of these formulas, thinking 
to compass my ends by means absolutely irrational. For 
example, I was convinced that if I could only count con- 
secutive numbers long enough, without losing one, I should 
suddenly, on reaching some far distant figure, find myself 
in possession of the great secret. I feel quite sure that nothing 
external suggested these ideas of magic. . . . 

"All this ferment of mind was entirely unobserved by my 
parents. But when I formed the belief, that it 'was necessary 
for the success of my practical magic, that I should hurt 
myself, and when, as a matter of fact, I begdn, in extreme 
secrecy, to run pins into my flesh and bang my joints with 
books, no one will be surprised to hear that my Mother's 
attention was drawn to the fact that I was looking ' delicate.' " 

The examples to be quoted are mostly not so clear as 
the above, but our aim is to establish precisely aU the 
intermediate stages between the most subtle and the 
crudest and least " magical " types. In the example of 
Gosse it is naturally the practices mentioned at the end 
(the pins and the blows) that fall into the category of magic 



136 CHILD'S CONCEPTION OF THE WORLD 

through action. But under the same heading we may also 
place magic based on arithmetic : such as counting very 
fast or without a mistake as a means of securing a par- 
ticular object. Such magic, based on arithmetical cal- 
culation or on counting, is very common. The following 
are further examples : — 

From one of our collaborators : "To succeed in any 
of the various things I was keen about {to win in a game, 
to have fine weather for an excursion, etc.) I used to do as 
follows : I would hold my breath and if I could count up to 
ten {or some other number, easier or harder according to the 
importance of the event) I felt sure of gaining what I wanted." 

The fact of success in counting whilst holding the 
breath is thus regarded both as the sign and the cause of 
success in the event desired, 

A boy of about ten, given to masturbation, was in the 
habit of counting up to a given number (lo or 15) whenever 
he was questioned or in any other circumstances, to 
prevent himself saying anything stupid or to obtain some- 
thing he desired. The origin of the habit in this particular 
case, seems to have been as follows. In moments of 
temptation the child used to count up to a certain number 
and then to succumb or not to the temptation according 
as he had succeeded or not in reaching the number under 
certain conditions. The habit had become a means of 
decision and finally a magical process. 

Here again, the operation of counting is at the same 
time both sign and cause. Naturally the opposite is found 
also, that is to say the operation serves not only for 
obtaining something but also for avoiding rriisfortune. 
This happens particularly often with those children — a 
much greater number than would be supposed — who are 
haunted every night by fears of death, either for them- 
selves or their parents. On this subject one of our 
collaborators has very clear recollections : — 

Every evening, from about the age of 6 to S, I was terrified 
by the idea of not waking up in the morning. I used to feel 
my heart beating and would try, by placing my hand on the 
chest, to feel if it wasn't stopping. It was undoubtedly in 
this way that I started counting to reassure myself. I counted 



REALISM AND IDEA OF PARTICIPATION 137 

very quickly between each heat and if I could succeed in 
passing a certain number before a particular beat or in 
making the beats correspond with even or with uneven 
numbers, etc., I felt reassured. I have forgotten the details, 
but I can remember the following very clearly. At regular 
intervals, from the pipes of the radiator in my room, would 
come a sudden, deep, rattling sound which often used to make 
me jump. I used to use this as a proof of whether I should 
die or not ; I would count very fast between one rattle and 
the next, and, if I passed a certain number, I was saved. 
I used the same method to know whether my father, who slept 
in the next room, was on the point of death or not." 

The relation of this fact to the manias of the insane 
and their defensive gestures is clearly brought out. But 
this example is only the negative aspect of the preceding 
cases of magic. 

The following memory dates from between the ages of 
9 and II : — 

" / often accompany my father when he goes to the rifle 
range. While my father shoots I sit on a bench. He gives 
me his cigar to hold. I imagine I can influence the accuracy 
of his shot by the position of the cigar. According as the 
cigar is almost vertical {the lighted end downwards) , or at an 
angle of 90°, 120° or 180°, the shot will be only fairly good, 
good or excellent. The shot never entirely misses since my 
father is a good shot. However, after two or three good shots 
have been fired, I lower the cigar for a while, with the feeling 
that he cannot keep this up." The narrator insisted that it 
was not in the least a game, and that when pointing the 
cigar in a particular direction he really believed he was 
influencing his father's shot. 

Other operations or magical actions are based on the 
pleasurable effect of rhythm or some other aesthetic 
pleasure which gives rise either to positive acts of magic 
or to obsessions of a negative nature. Such is the well- 
known sensation of pleasure common to children, of not 
walking on the lines of the pavement, or of jumping a 
stone at every step, etc. 

The sensation of pleasure may be entirely aesthetic or 
completely ridiculous in its origin. But the child has only 



138 CHILD'S CONCEPTION OF THE WORLD 

to desire something strongly or fear something and the 
game becomes a test, and its success or failure are regarded 
as the sign and cause of the realisation of what is desired 
or feared, as in the following example given by one of our 
collaborators : — 

" When I particularly wanted something I often used to 
step on every other stone as I walked on the pavement. If 
I succeeded in doing this as far as the end of the pavement 
it was a sign that what I wanted would happen. Or I would 
touch the stones of a wall, tapping every third stone and if 
I thus succeeded in reaching the last stone of the wall, I was 
certain of m,y success, etc. 

Another used to feel threatened by danger if he walked 
on one of the hnes between the stones. If he started by 
walking on one of these Unes he kept it up all the way so 
as to make the danger less. 

The following is another example of these rhythmic 
movements performed to assure the realisation of some 
event : — 

A child, given to masturbation, whom we shall call Clan, 
was afraid of being overcome by laziness or stupidity 
(" abetissement "). His drelms and his plans for the 
future showed henceforth a compensating tendency and 
he planned to become " a great man." To bring this about 
he adopted the following practice, which must have lasted 
for some time : " When crossing X {a public square) 
I used to tap the hooped railings enclosing the green with 
my tram season-ticket. To do this I had to stoop down. I 
used to do it every morning in order to become a great man." 

The following is, strictly speaking, more nearly a case 
of obsession than of magic, but it seems to be the negative 
version of a case of magic given later; — 

One of us can remember, in addition to the pavement 
rite, a feeling of being impelled to replace every stone she 
involuntarily moved when walking, or if not, whatever 
desire she had at the moment would not be realised. 

The curious recollection of the childhood of Mile Ve, 
reported by Flournoy, should probably find a place here : — 



REALISM AND IDEA OF PARTICIPATION 139 

" One of my most distant memories relates to my mother. 
She was very ill and had been in bed several weeks and a 
servant had told me she would die in a few days. I must 
have been about 4 or 5 years old. My most treasured 
possession was a little brown wooden horse, covered with 
' real hair ' .... A curious thought came into my head : 
I must give up my horse in order to make my mother better. 
It was more than I could do at once and. cost me the greatest 
pain. I started by throwing the saddle and bridle into the 
fire, thinking that ' when it's very ugly, I shall be able to 
keep it.' I can't remember exactly what happened. But I 
know that in the greatest distress I ended by smashing my 
horse to bits, and that on seeing my mother up, a few days 
later, I was convinced that it was my sacrifice that had 
mysteriously cured her and this conviction lasted for a long 
while." ^ 

This idea of the magical power of sacrifice reappears in 
a simpler form in the idea of obtaining some desired object 
by means of a painful or tiresome action. The following 
is an example : — 

In order not to be questioned in class or bothered by 
his teacher, a boy was in the habit of putting on and 
taking off his boots several times before going to school 
in the morning. His idea was that the more annoying the 
performance of the rite, the greater his chance of being 
favoured by Fate. 

Finally, there are innumerable rites to ward off danger : — 

A boy who lived in a somewhat lonely house was always 
very frightened on the evenings when his parents were 
out. Before going to bed he used to draw the curtains by 
unwinding a sort of roller. He had always the idea that 
if he could succeed in drawing the curtains very quickly 
the robbers would not come. But if the curtain took some 
time to unroll then the house was in danger. 

This fact, like those which follow, indicates clearly the 
the origin of these feelings of participation and of magic 
caused by a particular movement. The majority of little 
girls experience in bed at night the most violent fears of 
the dark and of strange sounds. There are various 

^ Archives de Psychologie, Vol. XV (1915), pp. 1-224. 



140 CHILD'S CONCEPTION OF THE WORLD 

measures of precaution to which they usually turn, sach as 
hiding under the clothes, turning the back to the door, 
drawing the blankets up exactly to the chin, etc. There 
is here nothing magical since these are simply means of 
protection. But some of these movements become dis- 
sociated from their primitive context and become rites, 
like the case of the curtain just quoted, and thence acquire 
an intrinsic value of their own. Then appears the magic : — 

One of us remembers always feeling a sense of protection 
so long as she had her arms pressed against her body. 

Another felt protected if on getting into bed, the clothes 
were completely tucked in all round so that she could slip 
in without anywhere unmaking the bed. If by chance 
she found the clothes not tucked in, or that they had 
come unmade as she got in, she felt herself threatened by 
danger. 

The origin of the movements is obvious ; to draw a 
curtain, to brace oneself, or make sure that no one has 
touched the bed ; but according as the movernent loses 
its primary significance and becomes effective in itself, it 
becomes magical. 

Next must be considered the cases of magic through 
participaiion between thought and things. Between these 
and the preceding there are any number of intermediate 
cases as was shown in the examples of magic based on 
counting. But the cases to be dealt with now concern 
mental elements much more closely related to thought than 
numbers, such, for example, as names and words. These 
cases thus result directly from the child's realism which 
we attempted to analyse in the preceding chapters. In 
these chapters we have already seen many cases where 
participation was believed to exist between things and 
thought, between names and the things named, dreams 
and the things dreamed of, etc. The strongest proof that 
these participations whose significance we have already 
noted, are spontaneous and not produced by our questions, 
is that they give rise to the most authentic cases of magic 
we found among all the memories of childhood we were 



REALISM AND IDEA OF PARTICIPATION 141 

able to collect, that is to say to cases of magic by means 
of names. The following are examples : — 

Clan, the child already quoted, first succumbed to 
onanism at Mayens-de-Sion. When he came home, he 
tried under the sway of remorse not to suppress the 
memory but to suppress the fact itself, or its consequences, 
that is to say the stupidity (" abetissement ") he feared 
(see above). To bring this about it was against the actual 
name of Mayens-de-Sion that he set himself : " / did all I 
could to break the name of Mayens-de-Sion." To break the 
name he simply distorted it. He repeated the name aloud, 
pronouncing it in German, MdyensersSyens and accen- 
tuating the two syllables " may " and " sey." 

In 4he same way, when suffering under the displeasure 
of a schoolmaster, he would repeat in his room, once back 
from school, the master's surname, not only to make fun 
of him but principally (in so far as the recollection is 
accurate) to be rid of his influence. 

A naturahst, whose work is to-day famous, gave us the 
following recollection of his childhood. Seated a couple of 
feet away from his cat and staring into the cat's eyes, he 
would pronounce many times the formula : " Tin, tin, 
pin pin de I'o-ii-in, pin, pin, tin, tin, pin pin de I'o-u-in, 
pin pin . . . , etc." So far as the memory is to be trusted 
the aim of this formula was to enable the child to project 
his personality into the cat : while pronouncing it the 
child felt himself pervading the cat's being and thus 
dominating it by participation. 

One of us used to enjoy playing at schools at home. 
She would give good marks to her friends and bad ones to 
the children she didn't like, etc., though all the time, of 
course, only addressing empty chairs. The next day, at 
school, she was convinced of having influenced the questions 
that were actually asked, and of having helped her friends 
answer well and hindered her enemies. 

Other cases of participation between thought and things 
rest on a sort of confusion or lack of differentiation between 
psychical and material characteristics : — 

Clan, like all masturbators, was in fear of losing his 
intellectual faculties and becoming " lazy." Whence the 
following rite : " When accompanying a particularly lazy 
hoy I sometimes chanced to walk hand in hand with him. 
Then when I was home again I would say to myself thai to 



142 CHILD'S CONCEPTION OF THE WORLD 

hold hands with a lazy hoy will make me lazy too, and 1 
must do something against it." Clan would then rub his 
hands vigorously. 

So also certain rites consist simply in thinking of some- 
thing to make a particular event happen or not. (This is 
Freud's " all powerful nature of thought.") 

It often happens that children — for that matter many 
adults too — think the opposite from what they want, as 
if reality made a point of intentionally foiling their 
desires. 

In the same way (according to the memories of child- 
hood we have collected), in order to avoid nightmares — 
and it will be remembered that up to the age of lo the 
origin of dreams is thought to be external — children try 
on purpose to think of frightening things and of the usual 
subjects of their nightmares so as to make the dream 
not come. 

The two following cases are further examples of feelings 
of participation allied to the power of thought : — 

Clan's first attack of masturbation was brought about 
by the sight of a little girl he did not know whom he looked 
at one day with thoughts of desire. Afterwards Clan 
asked himself " if the little girl could have a baby." Clan 
asked a similar question after having peeped through a 
keyhole. 

The last case is intermediate between this group and the 
next : — 

One of us can remember how, when he used to play at 
marbles, in order to make certain of winning, he would 
contrive to play with the marble used by the player who 
last won. It was as if the player's skill gave the marble 
peimanently good qualities or as if the marble was made 
particularly good by the player's luck. 

All these cases thus consist in regarding a particular 
mental element, such as names, laziness, thought and 
dreams, skill, etc. as intimately connected with the things 
themselves, and as having its own effective power. Between 
these and the third group, that of magic by participation 
between objects, are any number of intermediate cases. 



REALISM AND IDEA OF PARTICIPATION 143 

like the example just quoted of the magical marble, whose 
powers are regarded as due not to the skill of the player, 
but to something in the marble. What characterises the 
third group is that the magical action is no longer the 
direct issue of a movement or thought on the part of 
the subject, as was the connection in the two preceding 
groups, but that it arises from *an object or a place, etc., 
which the subject uses to influence another object of an 
event. The two following are clear examples, in which 
the choice of the magical body seems to have been deter- 
mined by its resemblance to the object which the subject 
seeks to influence : — 

One of us relates this recollection, speaking of herself 
in the third person : "A little girl of six used to pass often 
with her governess by a lake where some rare water-lilies grew. 
Every time she would throw some little stones into the water 
{always choosing them round and white) and taking care not 
to he seen by the governess. She thought that the next day 
water-lilies would appear in the place where the stones had 
fallen. For this reason, in the hope of thus being able to 
reach the flowers she always threw the stones quite near 
the edge." 

Another of us recalls the following : " When people 
plant a flower in a pot they always put a little stone at the 
bottom of the pot to prevent the soil being washed away. I had 
noticed this but had misinterpreted the reason. I used to 
choose my stone with the idea that on its colour and shape 
depended the life of the plant. It was just as much a question 
of the influence of the stone on the plant as of a sort of 
sympathy between the stone and me ; the stone collaborated 
with me to make the plant grow." 

The following is another example, the date of which can 
be fixed with certainty between the ages of 10 and 11 : — 

One of us used to collect shells from the lake and the 
smallest kinds of snails. On his walks he would experience 
a number of feelings of participation showing the child's 
tendency both to see signs in everything and to confuse 
the sign with the cause of an event, the cause being in this 
case of a magical nature. Thus, when he was seeking a 
particularly rare specimen, and on the way he found some 
other interesting specimen he would decide from this 



144 CHILD'S CONCEPTION OF THE WORLD 

whether or not he would find the specimen he was seeking. 
This was not based in the least on the similar habitat of 
the specimens, but solely on occult ties ; such an un- 
expected discovery ought to lead to another discovery 
during the day. Or again, when from a distance he thought 
he saw the particular specimen, but on approaching found 
he was mistaken, he concluded that he would not find the 
specimen he particularly wanted that day. 

Similar to these cases are those where the bond of par- 
ticipation lies in places, either favourable or unfavourable. 

One of us gives the following : " If on my way to the 
dentist I passed by a particular street and the dentist then 
hurt tne, I took care, the next time, to go a different way, so 
that he would hurt me less." 

In this group may be placed also the numerous feehngs 
of participation to which behefs concerning the air and 
the wind give rise. As wiU be shown in the subsequent 
volimie {La Causaliti Physique chez I' Enfant, Chapter I), 
children between the ages of 4 and 6 and some even older 
do not think that air is present in a room ; but they have 
only to shake their hands or wave a fan, etc. to " make 
air " (" faire de I'air ") and by this means even believe 
they can draw in the air from outside through closed 
windows. This is certainly a case of participation, given 
that the child neither understands nor attempts to under- 
stand the reason for such a phenomenon ; in his eyes, it 
is only necessary to wave the hand to bring the air, and 
the air produced by the hands has a direct influence on 
the air outside. 

In the same way, if a child of 4 to 6 is shown a small 
steam-engine he will explain the movement of the outside 
wheel as directly caused by the fire, even at a distance 
(as when the fire is put 50 centimetres away). But the 
child will often admit that the air outside comes to help 
the fire, and this again is due to a direct and unintelligible 
attraction (see La Causaliti Physique, Section IV). There 
is thus participation between the air produced by the fire 
and the air outside. 



REALISM AND IDEA OF PARTICIPATION 145 

Again the shadow one makes on the table is often ex- 
plained by Uttle children as due to a participation with 
the shadow of the night or the shadow under the trees. 
It is felt that this comes in the moment the hand is placed 
over the paper and the shadow of the fingers forms (see 
La Causalite Physique, Section III). Here again the child 
says clearly that the shadow of the trees " comes," but 
he cannot say " how " it comes : he simply states that 
the shadow of the hand comes both from the hand and 
the trees. It is not a logical identity (as if he were to say 
" the shadow of the hand is of the same nature as that 
of the trees "), nor is it an intelUgible causal relationship, 
it is simply " participation." 

Finally comes an example intermediate between this 
and the next group. This is the case of a httle girl who 
endowed her marbles with powers of influencing one 
another, partly from the idea of their possessing a sort of 
common essence (those of the same kind necessarily 
attracting one another) and partly from a kind of partici- 
pation of will similar to the cases of the fourth group : — 

" When I had just won certain marbles (by taking them 
from my opponent), / never used these marbles to play with 
again, because I thought I was more likely to lose these than 
the others, since I had the idea that they would be in some 
way attached to their former surroundings and have a ten- 
dency to return to their former owner. 

Finally, there is the fourth group of participations, those 
due to a common will and which give rise to acts of magic 
by commandment. The cases of this group arise as much 
from the child's magic as from animism. Two fundamental 
characteristics are at their origin, namely, the child's ego- 
centricity which makes him beheve the world to centre 
in himself, and his respect for his parents which tends 
always to make him believe that the world is governed by 
moral rather than physical laws. Animism and artificiahsm 
result from this attitude of mind as soon as it becomes 
crystallised in definite conceptions. But, before there has 
been any reflection, this attitude already gives rise to 



146 CHILD'S CONCEPTION OF THE WORLD 

feelings of participation between the child and objects. 
These are of great variety and must be stated now before 
they are examined in greater detail and in relation to 
each group of phenomena. 

First come participations in connection with the material 
nature of thought. Thought is identified with voice, and 
is in some cases held to be of air, the air being regarded 
as both internal and external. Whence arise the beUefs 
according to which air and smoke are drawn to us and 
become one with our breath or our thought (see Chapter I, 
§§ I, 2 and 3). The same convictions are found concerning 
dreams. As we have already seen, all these convictions 
are due to a comparatively simple reaUsm and result 
solely from a lack of differentiation between thought and 
things. 

Then there are a more numerous group of participations 
connected with the idea of the obedience of objects. 
Objects obey either the child himself or adults. The 
following are examples of the first type, beginning with 
two recollections : — 

One of our friends, now a teacher, believed during many 
years of his childhood (though he had never before revealed 
it) that he was the " ruler " of the world, that is to say 
that he could make the sun, the moon, the stars and the 
clouds move as he willed them. 

Clan also had the idea that the stars were his " property." 

These two examples are quoted because they so closely 
resemble the convictions we have been able to observe 
directly. We shall in fact show later (Chapter VII, § 2) that 
before the age of 8, the majority of children believe that 
the sun and stars follow them. With many, however, the 
emphasis is laid less on the spontaneity of the sun than 
on the power of the child himself. The following examples 
are very clear in this respect and concern the movements 
of the clouds as well as those of the sun and stars. 

Nain (4 J) : " Can the moon go wherever it wants, or 
does something make it move ? — It's me, when I walk." 
And again : " // comes with me, it follows us." 



REALISM AND IDEA OF PARTICIPATION 147 

GiAMB (7) : " Does the moon move or not ? — It follows 
us. — Why ? — When we go, it goes. — What makes it move ? 
— We do. — How ? — When we walk. It goes by itself." 
Giamb then invents the explanation that it is the wind 
that blows the sun and the moon, but he maintains all 
the while that it is we who control this movement : "If 
we didn't move, would the moon go on or not ? — The moon 
would stop. — And the sun ? — It goes with us too." 

Tag {6^) : " Have you seen the clouds moving ? — 
Yes. — Can you make them move yourself ? — Yes, by 
walking. — What happens when you walk ? — It makes them 
woyg.— What makes them move ? — We do, because we 
walk and then they follow us. — What makes them follow 
us ? — Because we walk. — How do you know that ? — 
Because when you look up in the sky, they are moving. — 
Could you make them go the other way if you wanted 
to ? — By turning round and walking back. — And what 
would the clouds do then ? — They'd go back. — Can you 
make anything else move from far away without touching 
it ? — The moon. — How ? — When you walk, it follows you. 
The stars too. — How ? — When you move they follow too. 
The ones that are behind follow the moon." 

Sala (8) : " Have you seen the clouds moving ? What 
makes them move ? — When you move they move too. — 
Can you make them move yourself ? — Everyone can by 
walking." 

Tuli (10) : " What makes the clouds move ? — It's when 
you walk." 

Port (9) said that the clouds move when God moves, 
and then added spontaneously : " Even when people walk 
in the street, that makes the clouds move. — Then can you 
make them move yourself ? — Yes. Sometimes when I'm 
walking I look at the sky. I see that the clouds are moving, 
then I see the moon doing it too when it's there." 

The nature of these participations and magical ideas 
is clear. There is no direct participation of substance, 
there is simply participation of action and principally of 
purpose : we can command the sun and the clouds, since 
there is " participation " between their will and our will. 
It may happen, however, that this dynamic participation 
involves participation of substance, as for example in 
cases involving the air, shadows, etc. It seems to children 
that we possess the power of attracting the air or shadows, 



148 CHILD'S CONCEPTION OF THE WORLD 

whilst producing them ourselves at the same time. We 
have classed these cases in the group of participations 
between objects (third group) but their origin lies evidently 
in a simple dynamic participation of the type quoted 
above. A case, quoted by Sully, and classed with justice 
as a magical idea by Leuba and by Delacroix^ shows 
clearly this relationship between dynamic participation 
and participation between objects. " A little girl was 
out for a walk with her mother one very windy day. The 
buffeting of the wind delighted her at first, but she soon 
grew tired of it : ' Wind make Mamma's hair untidy ; 
Babba (her name) make Mamma's hair tidy, so wind not 
blow again.' Three weeks later the child was out of doors 
in the rain ; she said to her mother : ' Mamma, dry 
Babba's hands, so not rain any more.' The child," 
SuUy adds, " is envisaging the wind and the rain as a kind 
of naughty child who can be got to behave properly by 
effacing the effects of its naughtiness. In other words 
they are both to be deterred from repeating what is 
objectionable by a visible and striking manifestation 
of somebody's objection or prohibition." ^ 

This commentary shows clearly the moral and dynamic 
origin of these participations. But from the dynamic 
participation which consists in relating the wind's will to 
our own will, to material participation which consists 
in relating the air we make by waving our hands to the 
atmosphere itself, is surely not far. 

The following is a good example of a dynamic partici- 
pation becorhing material and recalling, moreover, the most 
striking cases of participation among primitives. 

James quotes the case of a deaf-mute who became a 
professor and gave his recollections (in the third person). 
This is extracted from recollections relating to the moon ^ : 

^ See Dela-cioix, La riligion et la foi, pp. 27-42. Alcan, 1924; see the 
relationship established by Delacroix between magic and desire. See 
also Leuba, La psychologie des phinomines riligieux, Chap. VIII. 
Alcan, 1914, 

^ Studies of Childhood, p. 80. 

^ See Phtlos. Rev., I (1892), pp. 613-24. 



REALISM AND IDEA OF PARTICIPATION 149 

He asked himself with astonishment why the moon 
appeared regularly. He thought it must have come out 
just in order to see him. He began to speak to it then and 
imagined he could see it smile or frown. Finally, he made 
the discovery that he had been beaten much more often 
when the moon was visible. It was as if it watched him 
and reported his misdemeanours to his governess (he 
was an orphan). He often asked himself who it could be. 
At last he decided that it was his mother, because whilst 
his mother had been alive he had never seen the moon. 
He went to church on Sunday imagining that the moon 
wanted him to go, as he had been accustomed to go with 
his mother. His conscience developed, thanks above all 
to the moon's influence ^it was a full moon on the evening 
when he discovered that some money he had pilfered had 
disappeared from where he had hidden it). 

This extract makes clear participation connected with 
the origin of things, in which magic is attributed to the 
adult much more than to the child or to the things them- 
selves. In these cases there is equally a transition from 
dynamic to material participation. In the most primitive 
states the child has simply the impression that his parents 
command the world. For example, there is participation 
between the sun and men in the sense that the sun has 
no other reason for existing nor any other activity than 
furthering the interests of man. Thus, when the child asks 
himself, or when we ask him, how the sun began, he 
obviously answers that the sun was made by man, that 
it results from man (est " ne " de I'homme) etc. The 
belief in a common origin results from dynamic partici- 
pation. 

We shall find numerous examples of such feehngs of 
participation, which precede and announce the more 
strictly artificialist beliefs. They characterise what we 
shall caU the stage of " diffuse artificiahsm." We mention 
them now, since they too give rise, if not to actual magical 
practices at any rate to a predisposition towards magic. 
Cases have often been quoted of children begging their 
parents to stop a storm, or making some similar sort of 
impossible demand, as if their parents had the power of 



150 CHILD'S CONCEPTION OF THE WORLD 

doing all things. Thus Mme Klein has seen her child 
asking that spinach shall be turned into potatoes by 
cooking it.^ M. Oberholzer quotes the case of a little girl 
who begged her aunt to make the rain come.^ M. Bovet 
recalled the amazement and shock it was to Hebbel, as a 
child, to see his father in despair at the damage caused by 
a storm : Hebbel thus realised that his father could not 
be all-powerful.3 M. Reverdin recounts the following 
observation: "Whilst walking in a garden with his son 
aged 3 years 4 months, he noticed about 50 httle beads 
scattered on the path. The child did not see them. To 
make him find them, M. Reverdin traced a circle on the 
path round some of the beads, telHng the child he would 
find a bead in the middle of the ring. After a moment or 
so the child wanted to play the principal role and started 
making circles himself, thinking that the beads would 
necessarily be found inside them."* Such a case may 
indeed be merely an instance of " false reasoning " ; ^ the 
appearance of the bead followed the drawing of a circle, 
therefore it was the drawing that caused the bead to 
appear. But it certainly seems as if, in the particular 
case, there is added to this the child's impUcit faith in the 
power of the adult. 

§ 3. The Origins of Participation and Magic as 
Manifested in the Child. — Like animism and artificial- 
ism, of which we shall treat later, the participations and 
magic manifested by the child seem to have a double 
origin. They can be explained as due to phenomena either 
of the individual or of the social order : the first is realism, 
that is, a confusion between thought and things, or 
between the self and the external world ; the second is 
the translation into the physical world of the ideas evoked 



1 Imago, Vol. VII, p. 265. 

2 Spielrein, Archives de Psychologic, XVIII, p. 307. 

' Bovet, Revue de theologie et de philosophie, pp. 172-3. (Lausanne), 
1919. 

* Archives de Psychologic, Vol. XVII, p. 137. 

' See I. Meyerson, Annie psychologtque, XXIII, pp. 214-222. 



REALISM AND IDEA OF PARTICIPATION 151 

in the child's mind by his relations with the persons 
surrounding him. 

Let us first examine the part played by reahsm and 
consider under this head two of the psychological theories 
of magic recently put forward. 

In the first place, as is well known, Frazer sees in magic 
simply the application to external causaUty of those laws 
of resemblance and contiguity which govern the association 
of our ideas. It is evident, however, that this conception 
explains principally the form the magic takes ; it does 
not account either for the behef in its efficacy, which 
accompanies the magical action, or for the irrational 
nature of the associations such a behef supposes. 

To explain the belief in its efficacy, Freud has put 
forward the following theory. The belief results from 
desire. Underlying all magic is a special affective quahty. 
The same characteristic is found with the insane ; an 
insane person believes he has only to think of something 
to make a particular event occur or not. As a patient 
told Freud, this attitude involves belief in the " all- 
powerfulness of thought." But what affective conditions 
give rise to this behef ? By analysing his patients, Freud 
was led to consider magic as a result of " narcissism." 
Narcissism is a stage in the affective development, during 
which the child is only interested in himself, in his own 
desires and thoughts. This stage precedes the concen- 
tration of any permanent interest or desire in the person 
of others. But, says Freud, the narcissist being, so to 
speak, in love with himself, his wishes and his own desires 
appear to him charged with a special value, whence the 
belief in the necessary efficacy of each of his thoughts. 

This theory of Freud is of undoubted interest and the 
connection it establishes between magic and narcissism 
appears well founded. Only, the manner in which Freud 
explains and conceives this connection seems somewhat 
unintelligible. 

In fact it gives to the infant narcissist the qualities 
of an adult in love with himself and aware of it, as if the 



152 CHILD'S CONCEPTION OF THE WORLD 

infant could clearly distinguish his self from others. And 
also, it seems to claim that if a desire has an exceptional 
value, belief in its necessary realisation must follow. 
There is here a twofold difficulty. 

What is it, as a matter of fact, that prevents us believing 
in the automatic realisation of our desires ? It is that 
we know them to be subjective and that we distinguish 
them from the desires of others and from the realities 
that the world forces us to recognise. Thus if the infant 
narcissist believes in the all-powerfulness of thought, it 
is evidently because he does not distinguish his thought 
from that of others, nor his self from the external world ; 
in other words he is not aware of his self. If he is in love 
with himself, it is not because he knows his self, but 
because he ignores all that is outside his dream and his 
desires. 

Narcissism, that is to say absolute egocentricity, cer- 
tainly gives rise to magical conviction, but only in so far 
as it implies absence of consciousness of self. The term 
" solipsism " has been used in connection with infants : 
but the real solipsist does not feel that he is alone, and 
cannot know his self for the simple reason that we only 
feel ourselves to be alone after others have left us and 
that he who has never had the idea of a possible plurality 
cannot have in the least degree the feehng of his in- 
dividuality. Thus the solipsist probably feels himself 
identical with the images he perceives ; he has no con- 
sciousness of his self, he is the world. We may thus speak 
of narcissism and maintain that the infant regards every- 
thing in terms of his own pleasure, but on condition that 
we remember that narcissism is accompanied by the most 
complete realism, in the sense that the infant can make no 
distinction between a self that commands and a not-self 
that obeys. At the most the infant distinguishes a desire, 
arising he knows not whence, and events which happen 
to bring about its fulfilment. 

If we admit this assimilation of the world to the self 
and the self to the world, participation and magical 



REALISM AND IDEA OF PARTICIPATION 153 

causality become intelligible. On one hand, the move- 
ments of the body itself must be confused with any 
sort of external movement, and on the other, desires, 
pleasures and pains must be situated, not in the self, but 
in the absolute, in a world which, from the adult point of 
view, we should describe as common to all, but which 
from the infant's point of view is the only possible world. 
It follows when the infant sees his limbs move at his own 
will, he must feel that he is commanding the world. Thus 
on seeing a baby joyfully watching the movements of his 
feet, one has the impression of the joy felt by a god in 
directing from a distance the movements of the stars. 
Inversely, when the baby takes delight in movements 
situated in the outside world, such as the movement of 
the ribbons of its cradle, he must feel an immediate bond 
between these movements and his delight in them. In 
short, for a mind that cannot distinguish, or does so but 
dimly, the self from the external world, everything par- 
ticipates in the nature of and can influence everything 
else. To put it another way, participation results from 
a lack of differentiation between the consciousness of the 
action of the self on the self and the consciousness of the 
action of the self on things. 

It is here that the second factor essential to the ex- 
planation of participation and magic comes in. This is 
the part played by social environment, that is, the role 
of the parents. The hfe of the suckling is not, in fact, 
distinguishable in its origin from that of the mother. Its 
desires and most fundamental needs are necessarily met 
by a reply from the mother or from someone in its 
immediate surroundings. Every cry of the baby leads to 
an action on the part of the parents, and even the desires 
it can least express are always foreseen. In short, if the 
baby can barely distinguish its own movements from 
movements outside itself, there must be for it a complete 
continuity between its parents' activities and its own. 

Two consequences follow. Firstly, the feelings of 
participation must evidently be strengthened by this 



154 CHILD'S CONCEPTION OF THE WORLD 

continual response of the environment. Secondly, the 
conduct of people towards it gradually gives the baby the 
habit of command. The parents, like the parts of its own 
body, Uke all the objects that can be moved by the parents 
or by its own actions (food, toys, etc.), make up a class of 
things obedient to its desires and, since this class is much 
the most interesting, the whole world is conceived as of 
this fundamental type. Whence arises the habit of 
commanding things by magic. 

But let us leave this primitive stage, the description 
of which is naturally to be taken as purely schematic. 
The later stages, during which the self is gradually dis- 
tinguished from the external world, provide in fact very 
full data as to the nature of the processes whose genesis 
we have so far merely conjectured. 

As we have already seen in the preceding chapters, the 
child does not simultaneously classify as internal or 
psychic the various contents of its thought and experience. 
Words and dreams, for example, are comparatively late 
in being assigned to thought and the self. And since 
certain contents are projected into things, whilst others 
are regarded as internal, it follows that the child must 
necessarily feel all manner of participations between 
himself and things. Realism, indeed, implies a feeling of 
participation between the world and the self, for since it 
consists in regarding as belonging to things and as 
originating in things what in fact results from the child's 
own activity, it follows that this activity is conceived in 
return as something completely immersed in the things 
and all-powerful over them. This connection between 
realism and magical participation is shown in three 
different ways. 

The first, that is to say the simplest, to interpret consists 
in the attachment of thought and its instruments to things 
themselves — the counterpart in magic being participation 
between thought and things (the second of the four 
groups distinguished in § 2). In fact, from the moment 
the child confuses thought, or names, etc., with things, 



REALISM AND IDEA OF PARTICIPATION 155 

through not reahsing the internal and subjective nature 
of the act of thinking, it becomes natural for him to use 
these names or thoughts to influence things. Viewed in 
this light, all the cases of the second group quoted in the 
preceding section are easily expUcable. To distort a name 
in order to prevent the consequences of some event or as 
a means of defence against a master follows as a natural 
result of regarding names as bound up in the nature of 
actual things and persons. To shake the hands to free 
them of the contagious effects of laziness follows as a 
matter of course if the psychical and the physical are 
confused after the manner of the chOdren studied in 
Chapter I, It is harder to explain why children should think 
the opposite from what they v/ant or think of frightening 
things in order not to dream of them, for this supposes the 
endowing of fate and dreams with will. The realism in 
these cases is accompanied by animism. But they are 
none the less based on a certain realism similar to that 
which characterises the previous cases ; it Ues in the idea 
that thought can insert itself directly into the real and 
thus influence events. 

The second manner in which the connection between 
realism and magic appears Hes in the attachment of the 
sign to the reality, which is shown in the magic provoked 
by action (first of the groups distinguished in § 2). Actions, 
in fact, are symbols or signs in the same way as are words, 
names, or images, and as the child regards every sign as 
participating in the nature of the thing signified or every 
sjnnbol as adhering to an actual object, so actions are 
regarded as having the powers attributed to words and 
names. This realism of action is thus only a particular 
case of the reaUsm of signs. We must now try to analyse 
the relationship between magic by action and child 
reahsm in general. 

Two types of case exist : those in which the magical 
gesture is the symbolical reproduction of an action in 
itself reasonable, and those in which the magical gesture 
is symbohcal from the beginning. In both cases the magic 



156 CHILD'S CONCEPTION OF THE WORLD 

arises from a confusion between sign and cause, that is 
from making the sign reaUstic. 

Examples of the first type are the more rare. But 
the cases of magic relating to fear given in § 2 may be 
quoted as instances. The evolution of this type of magic 
seems to be as follows. The child begins by performing 
actions which contain no element of magic, but which, in 
their original context are simply ordinary acts of protection 
against robbers or other wicked persons ; such as to lower 
the curtains so as not to be seen, to see that the bed-clothes 
are tucked in all round so as to make sure no one is hiding 
either in the bed or under it, to press the arms to the 
sides, to stiffen one's self or make one's self smaller. But 
with repetition these actions lose all rational relation to 
the primitive context and become simply ritual. It is no 
longer to prove that nobody is hiding in the room that 
the child makes sure the bed-clothes are tucked in, but 
simply because it is a habitual action fitting in with a 
number of circumstances and which it would be foolish 
not to perform punctually. So too, in moments of anxiety 
we make a point of observing ritualistically every detail 
of our habitual routine, since it is impossible to foresee 
what may not be the effect of their neglect and because 
fear, depriving us of the power of reflection, makes us all 
the more conservative (automatic action taking the place 
of intelligence). For a rational mind — that is to say in 
this particular case for a subject conscious of his self and 
more or less clearly distinguishing the part of subjective 
habits from that of causal sequences bound up with the 
events in question and with the external world — the 
adherence to practice involved is destined merely to 
reassure us, each action being regarded as a proof that we 
are behaving as normally as usual. But for a realist 
mind — that is to say a mind which confuses the internal 
with the external — each of these actions becomes sym- 
boUcal and is then regarded as the psychical cause as well 
as the sign : the fact that the bed is properly made 
becomes not merely the sign but actually the cause of 



REALISM AND IDEA OF PARTICIPATION 157 

security. Or rather the action becomes symbohcal in so 
far as it is ritual, but a cause, in so far as it is regarded 
as bound up with the events themselves. This process is 
very clear in the case quoted in § 2, where the rapidity 
with which the curtain is drawn becomes a magical means 
of protection, symbohcal because withdrawn from its 
original context but efficacious because the symbol has 
remained attached to what it represents. 

The examples of the second type in which the magical 
gesture is s3TiiboUcal from the outset can be similarly 
explained, except that the action is related to the primitive 
context by simple association rather than as a part of a 
whole. Take for example the cases of rhythmic movements 
(quoted in § 2), since these are the simplest. They start 
either as a game or as some sort of aesthetic pleasure, such 
as the fun of walking on the pavement without stepping 
on the hues of the paving-stones, or of touching all the 
bars of a railing without missing one, or of replacing every 
stone kicked out of place, etc. Now suppose that the 
child, given to one of these habits, experiences one day a 
particular desire or fear. He will take care to follow his 
usual habits on that day, feeling in them the same need 
of adherence to practice ^ that was referred to above 
and in such a way that the action becomes one with the 
affective circumstances, the action being related to the 
whole by a sort of conditioned reflex or simply by syn- 
cretism. To a mind both syncretic and reahst at the same 
time, such a bond leads to magic, for the action becomes 
symbohcal and any symbol of success becomes a cause of 
success. To succeed in walking on a pavement without 
touching the lines becomes the sign that the thing desired 
wiU happen, and then the symbohcal action takes on 
powers of its own, in so far as these signs are all regarded 
as one with the thing they signify. 

^ For the part played by this need of adhering to practice, cp. 
I. Meyerson, Annie Psychologique, XXIII, pp. 214-222. The writer 
desires in justice to attribute to Meyerson all that is sound in the 
present section. For the errors, if errors there be, he takes full 
responsibihty himself. See Appendix. 



158 CHILD'S CONCEPTION OF THE WORLD 

In short, cases of magic by participation of action and 
of things can be explained in the same way as cases of 
participation between thought and things. They result 
from the realist attitude, that is to say from the projection 
of mental relationships into things ; every sign is regarded 
as a part of an actual thing and tends thus to be taken 
for its cause. 

There is yet a third manner in which realism leads to 
magical practices ; this is the belief in participation 
between objects themselves (the third of the groups 
distinguished in § 2). The position is more comphcated 
in this case ; the subject acts on an object by means of 
another object and regards the two objects as influencing 
one another by participation. According to Frazer it is 
simply a case of making association by resemblance or 
contiguity objective. But such a solution is too simple, 
for it remains to be shown how an association of ideas can 
be so objective as to become a causal relationship. We 
must say rather that realism implies lack of differentiation 
between the logical and the causal relationship. As adults 
we are aware of an external reality made up of causal 
connections and an internal subject who attempts at first 
by analogies and then by laws to understand this reality. 
To a realist mind, all seems equally real and everything 
has its place in the same external scheme. From this 
arise the ideas of precausahty and of syncretism that we 
have studied elsewhere {Language and Thought, Chapters 
IV and V) and which consist in situating in things the 
entirely subjective connections suggested to the child by 
his egocentric attitude. Magic by participation between 
objects is but the final stage in this process. It consists 
in regarding individual objects as materially bound to one 
another rather than as dependent on laws and conceptions 
made by mind. 

Take for example the case of the child who believed 
that by making a shadow he could bring on the night. 
The postulate of this belief lies in supposing that the 
shadow is made of night, that it participates in the nature 



REALISM AND IDEA OF PARTICIPATION 159 

of night. To a non-realist mind the meaning of the pro- 
position is as follows : the shadow is made by the shade 
thrown by the hand just as night is due to the shade 
thrown by the earth, therefore the shadow and the night 
are similar in that they are both due to the same law. 
The similarity Ues in their dependence on a general law. 
But, as we have previously attempted to show [Judgment 
and Reasoning, Chapter IV) a realist mind, that is to say 
a mind unaware of the subjectivity of its point of view, 
reasons neither by logical relationships not, therefore, by 
generaUsatior^ and necessary deductions, but by syncretic 
schemas and by " transduction," that is to say by directly 
identifying individual cases. Thus for a reahst mind to 
identify a shadow and the night does not mean that he 
estabUshes between them a similarity resting on a law, 
but that he admits an immediate identity in the individual 
cases, in other words material participation ; it is thus 
that he explains the shadow as " coming from " the night. 
The " transduction " or fusion of individual cases is, in 
fact, a realist and not a formal argument. When it is 
based on causal sequences that may be directly observed 
it appears rational because it leads to the same conclusions 
as a formal deduction starting from the same premises. 
But when it is based on individual cases, separated in 
time and space, it leads to syncretism and in extreme 
cases, to participation. 

It is evident that this explanation of participation 
between objects as due to " transduction " and logical 
reaUsm involves certain hypotheses, but we shall deal with 
this question less summarily in the subsequent work on 
the child's ideas of physical causality. 

In conclusion, reahsm — that is to say in its origin, 
absence of differentiation between the self (or thought) 
and the external world — necessarily develops into ideas 
of participation and magic, and in three ways : by 
confusion between thought and things, by a realism 
which conceives the sign as itself effective and a 
part of the thing for which it stands, and finally, 



i6o CHILD'S CONCEPTION OF THE WORLD 

and more generally, by syncretic fusion of individual 
substances. 

But realism cannot alone explain the whole of child 
magic. A large number of the participations the child 
conceives suppose animism and if animism results as we 
shall see, from egocentric reaUsm, it is thus the product 
of participations which the child feels to exist from the 
beginning between his parents and himself. In fact, 
through not being able to distinguish the psychical from 
the physical, every physical phenomenon appears to the 
child as endowed with will and also the whole of nature 
as obedient to the will of man and his parents. Thus the 
majority of objects or events which the child tries to 
influence by magic (when he has no other way of acting 
on them) appear to him to be fuU of feeUngs and intentions, 
either friendly or hostile. From this arise two types of 
case. Firstly, many of the rites previously described 
consist in a procedure designed to bring good fortune or 
to counteract evil. Thus the child who puts on his boots 
twice so as not to be questioned in class impUcitly supposes 
that fate is moral and wiU take account of the tiresome 
exertion involved in putting on one's boots twice. So too, 
the child who thinks the opposite from what he desires 
supposes fate to be in the habit of reading his thoughts 
in order to flout his wishes, etc. Secondly, there are a 
whole group of participations which are really animist. 
These are of the fourth group (described in § 2), the 
group of magical actions through participation of will. 
But, even in the phenomena of this fourth group, there is 
also an element of reaUsm, without which there would be 
no magic. 

The cases of the fourth group are, as a matter of fact, 
easily explained with the help of the two following facts. 
In all these groups there is absence of differentiation or 
confusion between the self and the external world, in this 
particular group between the subject's own point of view 
and external movements : thus the child imagines that 
when he moves, the sun and the clouds move too. Secondly, 



REALISM AND IDEA OF PARTICIPATION i6i 

there is the animist explanation ; the child says the sun 
and the clouds are aUve because they foUow him. There 
follows, as a consequence, magic by command ; it is only 
necessary to command things for them to obey, even at 
a distance. 

It is in these cases of the fourth group that the tendency 
for magical actions or words to become S5mibolical is 
naturally weakest, since the magic of this typfe is exercised 
by a sort of command which is as real as a conmiand 
addressed to a living being. But, as has already been 
shown, these participations of will develop into magic by 
thought or gesture which tends always to become symbolic. 

In conclusion, it would seem that the evolution of 
magical actions, whatever the origin of the participations 
on which they are based, follows the law of which M. 
Delacroix has made such a profound analytical study in 
connection with language. Signs begin by being part of 
things or by being suggested by the presence of the things 
in the manner of simple conditioned reflexes. Later, they 
end by becoming detached from things and disengaged 
from them by the exercise of intelligence which uses them 
as adaptable and infinitely plastic tools. But between 
the point of origin amd that of arrival there is a period 
during which the signs adhere to the things although 
already partially detached from them.^ 

But, if all magic leads to s5miboUsm, it is, as M. 
Delacroix has very justly shown, because all thought is 
symboUc. What the magical stage itself shows, in opposi- 
tion to the later stages, is precisely that symbols are still 
conceived as participating in things. Magic is thus the 
pre-symbolic stage of thought. From this point of view 
the child's magic is a phenomenon of exactly the same 
order as the realism of thought, names and dreams studied 
in the previous chapters. For us, concepts, words and 
images seen in a dream are all, in different degrees, 

^ H. Delacroix, Le Langage et la Pensie. See in particular the 
" Remarque finale." Delacroix has elsewhere pointed out very clearly 
the relationship between magic and reaUsm {La riligion et la/oi, p. 38). 



i62 CHILD'S CONCEPTION OF THE WORLD 

symbols of things. For the child, they actually emanate 
from the things. The reason is that we distinguish the 
subjective from the objective, whilst the child situates 
in things what is due to the activity of his self. In the 
same way magical actions are, to the observer, symbols, 
but to the subject they are effective, precisely because 
they are not yet symboUc and because they participate 
in things. 

§ 4. Corroborative Proof : Spontaneous Magical 
Ideas in the Adult. — Before concluding this chapter 
we shall try to see what traces of the magical ideas found 
in children and studied in the preceding sections are 
present among normal and civilised adults, and if they are 
indeed due to the confusions between the self and the 
external world which sometimes reappear momentarily in 
phenomena connected with imitation and emotion. 
Naturally, we shall only consider magic in a strictly 
individual sense, such as may be found among intellectual 
people and shall set aside all that is " superstition," that 
is to say all practices or beUefs that may have been 
handed down. 

Three cases occur in the adult in which the boundary 
between the self and the external world becomes momen- 
tarily vague and uncertain, exclusive of course of dreaming 
and reverie in which it would be easy enough to find 
innumerable feelings of participation. These three cases 
are involuntary imitation, anxiety and the state of 
" monoldeic " desire. We shall try to show that in these 
three cases, the weakening of the sense of personaUty 
leads to realism and the realism to more or less clear 
magical ideas. 

Firstly, involuntary imitation consists in an ideo-motor 
adaptation to movements perceived in such a way that 
the subject feels to be his own what actually belongs to 
another or to the material world. It consists, as Janet 
has said, in a confusion between the self and the external 
world. Numerous cases are easily found in which the 
imitative sympathy is accompanied by a complementary 



REALISM AND IDEA OF PARTICIPATION 163 

attitude which consists in trying to affect the external 
world by some action on one's own body. This attitude 
closely resembles that of infantile magic. The following 
are examples, beginning with the simplest cases : — 

Someone has his nose blocked up. A person present 
instantly feels the need to blow his own nose in order to 
free the speaker's nose. 

The speaker has a husky voice, — one feels the desire to 
clear one's own throat, again with the feeling of helping 
the speaker by so doing. 

A person's voice has failed him, — one speaks aU the 
louder not to excite him to imitation, but to lend him 
one's own strength. 

These cases are not very clear, since the implicit attitude 
can always be rationahsed, for it is as if the person sym- 
pathising is merely trying to set the other an example. 
As a matter of fact, observation shows that the action 
does not involve any such reasoning, the one simply tries 
to be rid of the irritation felt by seeing or hearing the 
other. 

A collaborator states how before going out with his wife 
he waited till she had finished her cigarette whilst he 
smoked a pipe. He noticed that he was drawing at his 
pipe quicker than usual in order that his wife would finish 
her cigarette quicker. For a brief moment the illusion 
was complete, that is, until he became aware of it. 

In the same way, one often tries to influence objects. 
For example, when someone is playing bowls or billiards, 
and is in doubt whether the ball will reach its mark, he 
wiU strain his body forward eagerly with a strong feeling 
of muscular tension, to make the ball roll in the right 
direction. He has no distinct idea of what he is doing, 
but it is clear he identifies himself with the ball in so far 
as he seeks to affect its course by his action. Imitation 
thus leads to an attitude of participation. 

If anyone sees two cyclists about to collide in the street, 
he will himself make a recoihng movement to prevent the 
bicycles crashing. 

It thus certainly seems as if confusions due to imitation 
lead towards magical gestures, which are instantly checked 
by our habits of thinking, but which, with minds less 



i64 CHILD'S CONCEPTION OF THE WORLD 

conscious of the self, would develop spontaneously. Un- 
doubtedly these facts may be considered as being very 
far removed from actual magic. But they make up at 
any rate and it is this that we are seeking a clear transition 
stage between a realism resulting from confusion of the 
self and the external world, and magic or participation.* 

In moments of anxiety the adult sometimes manifests 
the processes described in the case of the child, such as 
the desire to observe even the most insignificant details 
of the ordinary routine so that the balance of things shall 
not be upset. Thus, before giving a lecture, one takes 
one's usual walk, etc. ... In states of extreme anxiety 
there reappears the child's confusion between the action 
made to reassure himself and that destined to maintain 
the balance of reality, in other words the magical attitude. 
The following is a clear example given by the subject to 
whom the preceding examples are also due : — 

Just before giving a lecture, being rather nervous, he 
took his usual walk. When nearly at the point where he 
was in the habit of stopping, he was about to turn back 
before reaching the exact spot, when he felt compelled to 
go right to the end (50 metres further on) in order that the 
lecture should be a success, as if to cut his walk short was 
enough to spoil his luck ! 

In other states of fear, feeUngs of participation are 
found mixed with animist ideas, as in states of desire. 
The study of these shows that it is generally sufficient 
ardently to desire something outside of our control (such 
as good weather or anything depending on luck or chance) 
in order to have the impression of a sort of hostile power 
seeking to mock us. The desire thus becomes h5rpostatised 
in the things and by projection personifies fate and events. 
This reahst tendency is sufficient to cause any niunber of 
magical tendencies. 

One of us was travelling at night by bicycle. He had 
already gone many miles and was still far from his journey's 
end. The wind and the near approach of a storm made 

> See Delacroix, La riligion et lafoi, p. 141. 



REALISM AND IDEA OF PARTICIPATION 165 

him begin to feel nervous and this was increased by the 
numerous motors he kept meeting which blinded him with 
their hghts. He suddenly had the idea that to make 
things worse his tires might burst. He then felt distinctly 
the need of driving away this idea, in order thai the tire 
should not hurst, with the clear impression that to think 
of a burst tire was enough to cause the thing actually to 
happen ! 

This is an intermediate case between the realism of 
thought (Freud's " all-powerfulness of ideas ") and magic 
due to animism. 

In the following examples the latter predominates : — 

The same subject was looking for mushrooms, and had 
already several in his hand which he was about to put in 
his knapsack, when he decided to wait till he had found 
one or two more and put them all in together. But then 
he felt compelled immediately to put away the few he had, 
so as not to seem as if he counted on finding others, as 
these would certainly never appear if he seemed too sure 
of finding them. Another time, he said to himself, as he 
was walking, that he would put his coat in his rucksack 
as soon as he had found any mushrooms (so as not to 
waste time undoing the sack twice). But, a moment later, 
not having found any mushrooms, and feeUng his coat too 
hot he was about to take it off, when he was struck by the 
idea that it would be better not to take off his coat for 
fear of not finding any mushrooms. 

It should be noted that the subject had never been 
superstitious and had never been told during his religious 
education (Protestant) anything suggesting magical rites. 
The observations noted here are the more or less conscious 
tendencies that anyone can observe in himself. 

A friend, who is a professor of psychology, made the 
three following observations on himself. When walking 
after rain, he had the impulse not to take off his water- 
proof and put it in his rucksack, in order to prevent the 
rain from starting again. . . . 

When going to pay a call on anyone he hoped he would 
not find at home he was prompted to change his collar and 
his clothes in order not to meet them. If he went in his 



i66 CHILD'S CONCEPTION OF THE WORLD 

usual clothes they would be sure, on the contrary, to be 
at home ! 

Before giving a garden-party, he refused to have the 
garden prepared so that it should not rain, feehng con- 
vinced that if it was raked and weeded it would be sure 
to rain the whole day. 

He resumed his observations thus : " / always tend not 
to prepare for anything I want, for fear that what I hope to 
avoid should happen." 

Magical practices indulged in by card-players are well 
known. ^ 

It is clear enough that all these examples are derived 
from a confusion between the self and the external world, 
with the animistic tendency acting, in certain cases, as a 
secondary factor. All the last examples result from the 
extension to the external world of experiences that are 
weU known to the self. If an idea is in your mind it acts 
on you by suggestion, whence the tendency to try and 
drive it away even if it concerns a bicycle tire. Not to 
take one's usual walk is enough to put one in bad form, 
whence comes the idea that it must be continued right to 
the end, and not cut short even by 50 metres in order to 
insure that one's lecture shall be received favourably, etc. 

In short, these few examples confirm the conclusions 
we supposed true in the case of the child, namely that all 
reahsm tends to lead to magic. With the adult, realism 
still remains in imitation, in fear and in desire, and this 
reahsm, although of infinitely smaller extent than that 
of the child, is still enough to bring out certain clear 
cases of participation and even of magic. 

§ 5. Conclusion : Logical and Ontological Ego- 
CENTRiciTY. — In the first three chapters we tried to show 
that the distinction between thought and the external 
world is not innate in the child but is only gradually 
evolved and built up by a slow process. One result of 
this is of primary importance to the study of causality, 
namely that the child is a realist in its thought and that 
its progress consists in ridding itself of this initial realism- 

^ See H. Delacroix, La religion el lafoi, p. 43 sq. Paris, 1924- 



REALISM AND IDEA OF PARTICIPATION 167 

In fact, during the primitive stages, since the child is not 
yet conscious of his subjectivity, all reality appears to be 
of one unvaried type by reason of the confusion between 
the data of the external world and those of the internal. 
Reahty is impregnated with self and thought is conceived 
as belonging to the category of physical matter. From 
the point of view of causaUty, all the universe is felt to 
be in communion with and obedient to the self. There 
is participation and magic. The desires and the commands 
of the self are felt to be absolute, since the s\ibject's own 
point of view is regarded as the only one possible. There 
is integral egdcentricity through lack of consciousness 
of self. 

We are thus drawn to a conclusion parallel to that to 
which we were led by our earlier studies of child logic. 
In his manner of reasoning, equally, the child is only 
concerned with himself, and ignores more or less com- 
pletely the points of view of others. But, in logic also, if 
the child sees everything from his own point of view, it 
is because he believes all the world to think hke himself. 
He has not yet discovered the multiphcity of possible 
perspectives and remains bhnd to all but his own as if 
that were the only one possible. Also he states his views 
without proof smce he feels no need to convince. The 
results of this are seen in play, make-behef, the tendency 
to believe without proof, the absence of deductive 
reasoning ; in syncretism also which connects all things 
in terms of primitive subjective associations ; in the 
absence of all relativity among ideas ; and finally in 
" transductive " reasoning which, through the agency of 
syncretism, leads from one particular to another, heedless 
both of logical necessity and of general laws, because lack- 
ing in feehng for the reciprocal nature of all relationship. 

There are thus two forms of egocentricity, the first 
logical and the second ontological. Just as the child 
makes his own truth, so he makes his own reahty ; he 
feels the resistance of matter no more than he feels the 
difficulty of giving proofs. He states without proof and 



i68 CHILD'S CONCEPTION OF THE WORLD 

he commands without limit . Magic on the ontological 
plane, and conviction without proof on the logical ; 
participation in the domain of being, and " transduction " 
in that of reasoning are thus the two converging products 
of the same phenomenon. At the root both of magic and 
of conviction without proof he the same egocentric 
illusions, namely, confusion between one's own thought and 
that of others and confusion between the self and the 
external world. 

Ontological egocentricity is a principle essential to the 
comprehension of the child's world. Just as logical 
egocentricity provided the key to the child's judgment 
and reasoning, so ontological egocentricity provides that 
to his conceptions of reality and causality. Precausality 
and finaUsm are, in fact, directly derived from this ego- 
centricity, since, in their assumption that man is the 
centre of the universe, they consist in a confusion of 
relationships of a causal and physical nature with those 
of psychological origin. These primitive relationships 
come to be justified by animism and artificialism and 
from their lingering traces are finally made up the integral 
dynamism which impregnates the child's ideas on meteor- 
ology and physics. 



PART II 

ANIMISM 

Since the child does not distinguish the psychical from 
the physical world, since in the early stages of his develop- 
ment he does not even recognise any definite Umits 
between his self and the external world, it is to be expected 
that he will regard as living and conscious a large number 
of objects which are for us inert. This is the phenomenon 
we propose to study and we shall describe it by the current 
word " animism." 

We are aware of all that may be said against the employ- 
ment of this word, but we feel none the less that the two 
principal objections can be satisfactorily answered. 

The first of these is as follows. The term has been used 
by Enghsh anthropologists to describe those beliefs accord- 
ing to which primitive peoples endow nature with " souls," 
" spirits," etc., in order to explain physical phenomena. 
They sought to explain the various means by which the 
primitive thus arrives at the notion of a soul and at 
the same time they regarded this notion as giving rise to 
the animist beliefs. It is well known to-day how super- 
ficial was this description of primitive mentaUty. The 
penetrating criticism of Levy-Bruhl and the suggestions 
made by Baldwin have demonstrated to the point of proof 
that the processes of the primitive mind are the exact 
opposite from what was supposed. The primitive does 
not distinguish mind from matter. It is precisely because 
he has not made this distinction that all things appear to 
him endowed both with material properties and with will. 
It is the existence of this continuum, both moral and physical 



170 CHILD'S CONCEPTION OF THE WORLD 

at the same time, which explains the occult participations 
with which their magic teems, and which has created the 
illusion that primitives believe in a " soul " in the same 
sense that we do. M. Levy-Bruhl refuses, therefore, to use 
the term animism at all and regards it as bound up with 
the erroneous interpretations to which it first lent itself. 

But we shall not mean by it any more than the word 
implies ; we shall use it merely to describe the tendency 
to regard objects as Uving and endowed with will. This 
tendency is a fact and in giving it a name we have no 
intention of prejudging the issue of its interpretation. 
Whatever terminology we may decide to adopt, our 
problem is to examine whether animism in the case of 
the child depends on the existence of the notion of " mind " 
or, on the contrary, on the absence of such a notion. 

The second objection that may be raised is certainly 
more serious. The term animism denotes a belief peculiar 
to primitive peoples. If we use it here in speaking of the 
child it is as if we were deciding out of hand the question 
as to whether these similar beliefs were identical for the 
primitive and the child. But such is not the case. We 
shall use the word " animism " simply as a generic term, 
leaving the question open whether the various types of 
animism have the same or distinct psychological origins. 

On these premises, three main problems present them- 
selves in the study of child animism. First, there is the 
problem of purposiveness : does the child attribute con- 
sciousness to the objects which surround him and in what 
measure ? The second problem is important to the study 
of causality : what does the concept of " life " imply to 
the child ? Does life correspond with consciousness or 
not, etc. ? Finally, there is the third problem : what 
type of necessity does the child see in natural laws, moral 
necessity or physical determinism, etc. . . . ? 

Each of these problems will be dealt with in a separate 
chapter, and in considering the problem of necessity the 
attempt will be made to solve the question as to the 
genesis of child animism. 



CHAPTER V 

CONSCIOUSNESS ATTRIBUTED TO 
THINGS 

The technique used in the two following chapters is 
certainly open to serious criticism but the results un- 
doubtedly furnish a number of indications, provided 
certain reservations are made. 

We started by asking the following questions : " If I 
were to prick you with a pin, would you feel it ? " and 
" If I were to prick the table would the table feel it ? " 
The same question is then applied to stones, flowers, 
metal, water, etc., and the child is asked what would 
happen if one could prick the sun, the moon, the clouds. 
It is naturally necessary and this is the most important 
part of the experiment, to ask " Why ? " or " Why not ? " 
after each answer. The essential is, in fact, to see if the 
child replies arbitrarily or in accordance with a system, 
and in the latter case to discover what is the child's latent 
conception. 

The great danger of this technique lies obviously in 
suggestion, both ordinary suggestion and suggestion by 
perseveration. To avoid the former the questions must 
be given in an unbiased form ; thus, instead of asking 
" does the table feel anything ? " the question must be 
" does the table feel anything or nothing " ? But accord- 
ing to the writer's observations the real danger lies not 
in simple suggestion but in perseveration. If the child 
starts by saying " yes," (that the flower feels the prick, 
for example), he will tend to continue answering " yes " 
to all the other questions. If he started by saying " no " 

171 



172 CHILD'S CONCEPTION OF THE WORLD 

his answers wiU tend equally to perse verate. Two pre- 
cautions are, therefore, necessary. The first is to jump 
continually from one extreme to another, thus after asking 
whether a dog can feel, the question must then be asked 
about a stone or a nail (which are usually regarded as 
without consciousness) and then for a flower, then for a 
wall or a rock, etc. Only after making sure that there is 
no {perseveration should the more debatable objects, such 
as the sun, the stars, the clouds, etc., be broached. And 
here again they must not be presented in order and aU 
continuity must be avoided. The second precaution hes in 
constantly observing the child's implicit systematisation. 
This is not easy, since the youngest children neither knov 
how to justify their statements [Judgment and Reasoning, 
Chapter I, § 4) nor do they understand their own reasoning 
or definitions [Judgment and Reasoning, Chapter IV, §§ i 
and 2). Moreover, the child can neither multiply nor 
summarise his propositions nor avoid contradictions 
[Judgment and Reasoning, Chapter IV, §§ 2-3), which com- 
pels the experimenter to interpret as he proceeds, always 
a delicate operation. Nevertheless, with practice it 
becomes fairly easy to detect those children who answer 
at random and to recognise those who have genuinely 
some latent scheme of systematisation. The difference 
between the two reactions is often evident from the first 
questions. It is a good plan, therefore, to see these children 
again a few weeks later to see if the systematisation has 
been preserved. 

But we were soon forced to regard the question of the 
prick as too narrow. Animist as the child is, he is still 
not so anthropomorphic as might be supposed. In other 
words, he wiU easily refuse to admit that the sun could 
feel a prick, although beheving, all the while, that the 
sun knows that it is moving, and knows when it is day 
and when night. He will not admit that the sun can feel 
pain yet beheves it to be aware of its own existence. The 
questions must, therefore, be varied for each object and 
in accordance with its functions. For example, concern- 



CONSCIOUSNESS ATTRIBUTED TO THINGS 173 

ing clouds, the question might be, " when it is cold, do 
they feel cold or don't they feel anything at all ? " " when 
they are moving, do they know they are moving or not ? " 
etc. Further, it is often useful to begin the examination 
by a series of questions on the verb " feel " and then to 
repeat these, by way of control, concerning the verb " to 
know." 

We have come to the conclusion that if the questions 
are handled with the necessary care, perseveration can be 
avoided. But the objection raised to this technique may 
go yet deeper. Binet's researches on the testimony of 
children have clearly shown the dangers involved in 
setting questions in an alternative form, for they force 
the solution of a problem that would possibly never have 
been presented spontaneously in such a form. Therefore, 
the greatest reservation must be made before drawing 
conclusions from the results. We give the reader this 
preliminary warning so that reading the experiments he 
will not criticise us for making premature judgments. 

From the results obtained, four groups may reasonably 
be distinguished, corresponding grosso modo to four 
successive stages. For children of the first stage, every- 
thing that is in any way active is conscious, even if it be 
stationary. In the second stage consciousness is only 
attributed to things that can move. The sun and a bicycle 
are conscious, a table and a stone are not. During the 
third stage an essential distinction is made between move- 
ment that is due to the object itself and movement that is 
introduced by an outside agent. Bodies that can move 
of their own accord, like the sun, the wind, etc., are 
henceforth alone held to be conscious, while objects that 
receive their movement from without, Uke bicycles, etc., 
are devoid of consciousness. Finally, in the fourth stage, 
consciousness is restricted to the animal world. 

It must be stated at the outset that in classifying the 
results obtain'ed we shall Regard this outUne as true, that 
is to say as adequately representing the spontaneous 
development of animism in the child. But owing to the 



174 CHILD'S CONCEPTION OF THE WORLD 

defects in the method of examination we cannot with 
certainty say of a particular child that it belongs to a 
particular stage. It is obvious that two distinct questions 
are involved. The first is in some degree statistical, and 
its solution is possible despite uncertainties of detail ; the 
second is a species of individual diagnosis and involves a 
far subtler technique. 

Two more points call for attention. The scheme out- 
lined above allows certain details to escape notice. Many 
children's conceptions of consciousness embody certain 
attributes, such as the fact of having blood, of being able 
to speak, of being visible (for the wind), etc. But as these 
views are individual and have no generality they may be 
neglected here. 

Secondly, we shall not distinguish children's conceptions 
concerning the verb " feel " from those concerning the 
verb " know." Such shades of distinction as we have 
detected appear to be principally a matter of words. 
Possibly children attribute " feeling " to things, longer 
than they do " knowing." But we have not sought to 
verify this impression as it is of little bearing on the issue. 

§ I. The First Stage: all Things are Conscious. — 
The child in this stage certainly never says that every- 
thing is conscious. He simply says that any object may 
be the seat of consciousness at a given moment, that is 
to say when the object displays a particular measure of 
activity or is the seat of some action. Thus a stone may 
feel nothing, but if it is moved, it will feel it. The follow- 
ing examples are chosen from amongst the oldest children 
found in this stage. 

Vel (8^) says that only animals could feel a prick, thus 
showing he is able to differentiate in his answers. What 
he means, as a matter of fact, is that only animals can 
feel pain. Clouds, for example, would not feel . a prick. 
" Why not ? — Because they are only air. — Can they feel 
the wind or not ? — Yes, it drives them. — Can they feel 
heat ? — Yes." But as far as mere consciousness is con- 
cerned, any object may be conscious at times : " Can 
the bench feel anything ? — No. — If someone burnt it, 



CONSCIOUSNESS ATTRIBUTED TO THINGS 175 

would it feel that ? — Yes. — Why ? — Because it would get 
smaller. — Does a wall feel anything ? — No. — Would it feel 
it if it was knocked down ? — Yes. — Why ? — Because that 
would break it." A moment later : " If I pull off this 
button (a coat button), will it feel it ? — Yes. — Why ? — 
Because the thread would break. — Would that hurt it ? — 
No, but it would feel that was tearing it." " Does the moon 
know it moves or not ? — Yes. — Does this bench know it 
is here ? — Yes. — You really think so ? Are you sure or 
not sure ? — Not sure. — What makes you think perhaps it 
doesn't know ? — Because it is made of wood. — And what 
makes you think it may know ? — Because it is here." 
" When the wind blows against the Saleve, does it feel 
there is a mountain there or not ? — Yes. — Why ? — 
Because it goes over it." " Does a bicycle know it goes ? 
— Yes. — Why ? — Because it goes. — Does it know when it 
is made to stop ?—Yes. — What does it know with ? — 
The pedals. — Why ? — Because they stop going. — You think 
so really? — Yes (we laugh). — And do you think I think 
so ? — No. — But you think so ? Can the sun see us ? 
— Yes. — Have you thought of that before. — Yes. — What 
does it see us with ? — With its rays. — Has it got eyes ? 
— / don't know." 

Vel's answers are interesting because he can differentiate. 
Despite our final counter-suggestion, Vel endows the sun 
with vision. He refuses to allow pain to the button but 
thinks it would be aware of being pulled off, etc. Un- 
doubtedly, Vel has never yet asked himself these questions, 
but it seems to follow from what he says, that if he has 
not yet asked them it is precisely because he confuses 
" acting " with " knowing the action is happening " or 
" being " with " knowing that one is." Even so cautious 
an interpretation may, however, be doubted. But in the 
case of Vel we have a further proof to serve as check. 
More than a year later we saw Vel again to question him 
on various physical problems. Naturally, we did not 
recall to him the questions of the previous year which he 
had completely forgotten. The following is his spontaneous 
reaction at the age of 9^ : — 

We hung a metal box from a double string and placed 
it in front of Vel, in such a way that, on letting go of the 



176 CHILD'S CONCEPTION OF THE WORLD 

box, the string unwound making the box turn round and 
round. " Why does it turn ? — Because the string is twisted. 
— Why does the string turn too ? — Because it wants to 
unwind itself. — Why ? — Because it wants to he unwound 
( = it wants to resume its original position, in which the 
string was unwound) . — Does the string know it is twisted ? 
— Yes. — Why ? — Because it wants to untwist itself, it knows 
it's twisted ! — Does it really know it is twisted ? — Yes. I am 
not sure. — How do you think it knows ? — Because it feels 
it is all twisted." 

The child who speaks thus is neither under the influ- 
ence of suggestion nor romancing. The following are 
further examples : — 

Kenn (7I) : "If you pricked this stone, would it feel 
it ? — No. — Why not ? — Because it is hard. — If you put 
it in the fire, would it feel it ? — Yes. — Why ? — Because 
it would get burnt. — Can it feel the cold or not ? — Yes. — 
Can a boat feel it is on the water ? — Yes. — Why ? — 
Because it is heavy when you are on it ( = it feels the weight 
of the people on board). — Does water feel if you prick it ? 
— No. — Why not? — Because it is thin ( = not soUd). — 
Does it feel the heat of the fire or doesn't it feel anything ? 
— Yes (it feels it). — Would the sun feel it if some one pricked 
it ? — Yes, because it is big." " Does the grass feel when 
you prick it ? — Yes, because you pull it." " If this table 
were carried to the other end of the room, would it feel 
it ? — No, because it is light ( = it would offer no resistance, 
because it weighs so little). — If some one broke it ? — It 
would feel that." 

Kenn clearly supposes that the degree of conscious- 
ness a thing possesses is in accordance with the effort it 
makes ; a boat feels its passengers, but a hght table 
does not feel when it is carried and grass feels when it is 
picked, etc. 

JuiLL (7 J) : A stone feels neither heat nor cold. " Would 
it feel if it was dropped on the ground ? — Yes. — Why ? — 
Because it would break." " Can a table feel anything ? — 
jVo. — Would it feel if it were broken ? — Oh, yes." " Does 
the wind feel when it blows against a house ? — Yes. — 
Does it feel it or not ? — It feels it. — Why ? — Because it is 
in its way. It can't pass. It can't go any further." " Tell 



CONSCIOUSNESS ATTRIBUTED TO THINGS 177 

me some things which don't feel anything. . . . Do 
walls feel ? — No. — Why not ? — Because they can't move 
(this answer announces the second stage), — Would they 
feel anything if they were knocked down ? — Yes. — Does 
the wall know it is in a house ? — No. — Does it know it's 
tall ? — Yes. — Why ? — Because it goes right up, it knows it 
goes right up I " 

Reyb (8 ; 7) : " Can water feel anything ? — No. — Why 
not ? — Because water isn't all one (is Uquid). — If it's put 
on the stove, does it feel the heat ? — Yes. — Why ? — 
Because the water is cold and the fire is hot. — Does wood 
feel anything ? — No. — Does it feel or not when it bums ? 
Yes, because it can't stop it (!) — Then it feels or not ? — 
It feels." 

AU these cases are similar and are free from all taint of 
suggestion. They show, all of them, the exercise of differ- 
entiation. The child endows all things with consciousness 
but not with, consciousness of everything. For example, 
he refuses to admit that a stone can feel a prick, that the 
sun knows how many people are in the room, that buttons 
or spectacles know where they are, etc. But on the con- 
trary, as soon as there is any sort of activity or more 
especially resistance, there is consciousness ; thus for 
Kenn a boat knows when it carries a cargo but a table 
does not know it is being carried ; for Juill the wind feels 
the presence of an obstacle, but a table feels nothing unless 
it is broken, for Reyb wood feels it is burning " because 
it can't do anything to stop it," etc. Such cases are easily 
interpreted. It is wrong to say the child attributes con- 
sciousness to things or at any rate such an expression must 
only be regarded as metaphorical. As a matter of fact, 
he has never or but very seldom considered the question 
as to whether things are conscious or not (he may some- 
times do so, however ; see Language and Thought, p. 202) . 
But having no notion of a possible distinction between 
thought and physical objects, he does not realise that 
there can be actions unaccompanied by consciousness. 
Activity is for him necessarily purposive and conscious. 
A wall cannot be knocked down without feehng it, a 
stone cannot be broken without knowing it, a boat cannot 



178 CHILD'S CONCEPTION OF THE WORLD 

carry a cargo without effort, etc. There is here a primi- 
tive failure to dissociate between action and conscious 
effort. The real problem is thus to know how the child 
comes to conceive an unconsious action and to dissociate 
the notion of the action from that of consciousness of the 
action, rather than to know why action and consciousness 
appear necessarily connected. 

If a parallel be sought among the answers and beliefs 
of primitives, it is not to animism with its highly emotional 
colouring, such as is manifest in social rites, that we shall 
turn, but rather to the httle that is known of primitive 
physics. Mach relates in this connection the story of the 
Indian chief Chuar, who explained why his men could not 
succeed in throwing a stone across a ravine by saying that 
the stone was attracted by the ravine, just as we our- 
selves might be when suffering from giddiness, and it 
thus lost the strength necessary to make it reach the 
other side.i Mach further remarks that it is a persistent 
tendency in primitive thought to regard every subjective 
sensation as universal. 

Our interpretation involves, however, yet another diffi- 
culty. It may be questioned whether the answers just 
analysed are really primitive and constitute the first 
stage in child animism. In fact, between the ages of 5 
and 6 we found some exceptional cases who were in the 
later stages and also we came on children of 4 and 5 who 
showed hardly any animist tendency. 

GoNT (4), for example, answered thus : " Does the sun 
know that you are here ? — Yes. — Does it know you are 
in the room ? — It doesn't know anything at all. — Does it 
know when it's time to set ? — Oh, of course ! — Does it 
know when it's night ? — Oh, no ! " etc. 

But in analysing these answers, allowance having been 
made for the difficulties involved in setting such questions 
to children of this age (and with the present technique 
they are certainly considerable), it will be seen that the 
child's resistance is usually a matter of words. For the 

^ Mach, La Connaissance et I'Erreur, trad Dufour, p 126. 



CONSCIOUSNESS ATTRIBUTED TO THINGS 179 

youngest children the terms " knowing " and " feehng " 
are not properly understood and have a more restricted 
sense than for older children. " Knowing " means some- 
thing hke " having learnt," or " knowing hke a grown- 
up." For this reason Gont refuses to allow " knowing" 
to a bench, because " the bench isn't a person "(un mon- 
sieur). In the same way " feeling " means " being hurt " 
or " crying," etc. Children as young as this have prob- 
ably no word to express " being aware of." It is thus 
that arise the various anomalies which their answers 
reveal at this age. 

We may, therefore, admit that the answers in the first 
category really characterise a first stage. During this 
stage all objects may be conscious, even if stationary, but 
consciousness is connected with an activity of some kind, 
whether this activity arises in the objects themselves or 
is imposed on them from without. The stage lasts on an 
average until the ages of 6 or 7. 

§ 2. The Second Stage : Things that can move 
ARE Conscious. — Already in the first stage, the child 
regarded consciousness as bound up with some movement, 
at least in so far as activity involves movement, but there 
was no distinction as to what objects could be conscious ; 
a wall, a mountain, etc., were all in this respect the same. 
The characteristic of the second stage is, on the contrary, 
that consciousness is henceforth restricted to things that 
can move, that is to say no longer to objects, which can 
for the moment become the seat of a particular movement, 
but to those ordinarily in motion or whose special function 
is to be in motion. Thus the sun and moon, the stars, 
clouds, rivers, the wind, carts, fire, etc., are all regarded 
as conscious. 

Mont (7 ; o) : " Does the sun know it gives light ? — Yes. 
— Why ? — Because it is made of fire. — Does it know that 
we are here ? — No. — Does it know it is fine weather ? — 
Yes." So, too, the wind, the clouds, the rivers, the rain 
are regarded as conscious. " Does the wind feel anything 
when it blows against a house ? — Yes, it feels it can't go 



i8o CHILD'S CONCEPTION OF THE WORLD 

any further." " Does a bicycle know when it is going ? — 
Yes. — Does it know it is going quickly ? — Yes. — Can it 
go by itself ? — No," etc. On the contrary, benches, walls, 
stones, flowers, etc., can neither know nor feel. " Does 
this bench know it is in this room ? — No. — Why not ? — 
It can't speak. — Does it know you are sitting on it ? — 
No. — Why not ? — . . . — Would it know if you hit it or 
broke it ? — No" etc. 

Mont's choice is quite clear, although he himself does 
not give the reasons. In the following cases, the children 
are more explicit : — 

Kae (ii) spontaneously unites consciousness with move- 
ment : " Does the sun know anything ? — Yes, it heats. — 
Does it know that it's hidden from us in the evening ? — 
Yes, because it sees the clouds in front of it . . . no, it 
doesn't know, because it isn't it that hides. It's the clouds 
that go in front of it." Thus, if the sun hid itself, it would 
know, but since it is hidden without having done any- 
thing itself, it doesn't know. " Does a bicycle know when 
it goes ? — Yes, it feels the ground." " Does a motor know 
it goes ? — Yes, it feels it isn't still in the same place." 

VoG (8 ; 6) : " Does the moon know it shines ? — Yes. 
— ^Why ? — Because it shows us the way at night (the moon 
follows us ; see Chapter VII, § 2). — Does the wind know it 
blows ? — Yes, because it makes a lot of wind. — Does a 
bicycle know when it's going ? — Yes. — Why ? — Because 
it can go fast." But stones, etc., neither know nor feel 
anything. 

Pug (7 ; 2) : " Does the sun know when it sets ? — 
Yes. — Does it know it gives light ? — No. — Why not ? — 
Because it hasn't any eyes, it can't feel it." " Does a bicycle 
know anything ? — No. — Why not ? — / meant it knows 
when it goes fast and when it goes slowly. — Why do you 
think it knows ? — / don't know, but I think it knows. — 
Does a motor know when it's going ? — Yes. — Is it alive ? 
— No, but it knows. — Is it the driver who knows or the 
motor ? — The driver. — And the motor ? — It knows too." 
Benches, tables, stones, walks, etc., neither feel nor know 
anything. 

Sart (12^) : " Can water feel anything ? — Yes. — What ? 
— When there's a wind, it makes waves. Because the wind 
makes the waves come, then the water feels something like 
that." Stones, walls, tables, etc., feel nothing at all. 



CONSCIOUSNESS ATTRIBUTED TO THINGS i8i 

" Does a watch know anything ? — Yes, because it tells us 
the time. — Why does it know ? — Because it's the hands 
which show us the time," etc. (!) 

It is unnecessary to multiply these examples, firstly 
because they are all alike, but principally because this 
stage is essentially one of transition. In fact, children 
either attribute consciousness to everything or they re- 
strict it to things which move, as if all movement implied 
voluntary effort. But they soon realise that the move- 
ment of certain things, such as that of a bicycle, comes 
entirely from outside, from the man pedalling, for example. 
As soon as this distinction is made, the child restricts 
consciousness to things that can move of their own accord, 
and thus reaches the third stage. 

There is thus only a difference of degree between the 
second and third stages. To express this difference it 
is wrong, despite appearances, to say that the child begins 
by attributing consciousness to all things that move 
(second stage) and then restricts it to those bodies that 
move of their own accord (third stage)-. In reality during 
both stages the child regards consciousness as being a 
quality of things that move of their own accord, and, 
when he attributes consciousness to bicycles in the second 
stage, it is in the majority of cases because he conceives 
bicycles as endowed with a certain purposive force in- 
dependent of the cyclist. 1 The difference between the 
second and third stage is simply this that the child 
discovers the existence of bodies whose movement is not 
self -governed. This discovery leads him to distinguish 
two types of body and thus progressively to reduce the 
number of bodies that can move of their own accord. 
Machines are the first objects to be thus differentiated 
from Uving and conscious bodies. Then usually follow 
the clouds, streams, etc. 

What has just been stated as following from the results 
obtained by using the present technique, is confirmed in 

^ The reason for this is further dealt with in a special study of 
explanations concerning the bicycle (CausaliU Physique, Sect. IV). 



i82 CHILD'S CONCEPTION OF THE WORLD 

the sequel to this work by means of a much surer technique 
employed to study the cause of movement. We shall see 
that, in the primitive stages, the child regards all move- 
ment as due in part to an external activity but also as 
necessarily due to an internal activity, that is to say to 
a spontaneous, purposive force. It is not tiU late (after 
the ages of 7 and 8) that this animistic dynamism gives 
place to a mechanical explanation of movement, even 
with regard to machines. This inquiry into movement, 
made on children, other than those whose answers are 
analysed here, forms the best corroborative proof we have 
found to check the value of the present results. 

Finally, it must be mentioned that the second stage 
extends on an average from the ages of 6-7 to 8-9 and 
the third from 8-9 to 11-12. 

§ 3. The Third Stage : Things that can move of 
THEIR OWN ACCORD ARE CONSCIOUS. — This Stage is the 
most systematic and the most interesting of the four. 
In the majority of cases the animism is more reflective 
and the motive clearer than in the answers of the preceding 
stages, which, indeed, showed much more a general trend 
of mind than any systematic beliefs. According to the 
terminology adopted they were " liberated " rather than 
" spontaneous " convictions. On the other hand, many 
children of the third stage (not the majority, but a con- 
siderable number) show a more reflective view and to- 
gether with many " Hberated " convictions are a number 
that are " spontaneous." 

Ross (9 ; 9) started by ascribing consciousness to 
animals but refusing it to the table : " Would a table 
feel if I were to prick it ? — No. — Why not ? — Because it 
is not a person. — Can the fire feel anything ? — No. — If 
someone threw water on it, would it feel that ? — No. — 
Why not ? — Because it is not a person. — Does the wind 
feel anything when the sun is shining ? — Yes. — Doesn't 
it know it is blowing ? — Yes. — Does the sun feel anything ? 
— Yes. — What does it feel ? — It feels it's heating, etc." 
Ross Ukewise attributes consciousness to the stars, the 
moon, the rain and streams, but refuses it to bicycles, 



CONSCIOUSNESS ATTRIBUTED TO THINGS 183 

motors and boats. " Are you sure of all this or not very ? 
— Not very. — Have you thought about it before ? — No. — 
Why aren't you very sure ? — I haven't learnt it. — You 
say the wind feels something, but you aren't quite sure. 
Tell me what you think, what makes you think that 
perhaps the wind doesn't feel when it is blowing ? — 
Because it is not a person. — And why do you think perhaps 
it does feel ? — Because it is it (!) that blows " {cp. this 
answer with Mart (8 ; 10) ; see Chapter II, § 2): "The 
lake knows its name ? — Yes, because it moves. — It knows 
it moves ? — Yes, because it's it that moves " (see all Mart's 
answers) . 

These words " it is it that blows," or " it's it that 
moves " contain what is most vital in the third stage 
and, therefore, the essence of child animism in its purest 
form. The first phrase is all the more striking from being 
spoken by one who is "not very sure " of what he is 
stating and fully realises that the wind is " not a person." 
But since no external cause makes the wind blow, there- 
fore it must do so of its own accord and must be aware 
of its movement. " Can the wind do what it likes ? " we 
then asked Ross : " Can it stop blowing if it wants to ? — 
Yes ? — And can it blow whenever it wants to ? — Yes." 
Surely then the wind must be conscious ? Ross, it is true, 
was not certain, but it is precisely his uncertainty which 
is so valuable in laying bare the motives of his thought. 

Card (9^) attributes consciousness to the sun, the moon, 
and the clouds, but refuses it to stones, etc., and even 
to the wind : " Does the wind know when it blows ? 
— No. — Why not ? — Because it is the cloud that makes it 
blow." This is the spontaneous expression of one of the 
numerous explanations children give as to the origin of 
the wind, namely, that it is produced by the movement 
of the clouds (see La Causalite Physique). The theory 
does not, however, concern us at present. The point is 
simply that since Card does not regard the wind's move- 
ments as spontaneous, he does not attribute consciousness 
to it. 

ScHi (6, advanced) : "Do the clouds feel that they 
are moving ? — They can feel because ifs they that make the 
wind." This is Card's theory again and the same argu- 



i84 CHILD'S CONCEPTION OF THE WORLD 

ment. Schi also speaks thus concerning flowers : " Do 
they know when you tread on them ? — They ought to 
know," and then explains : " They must he alive, because 
they grow." 

Ratt (8 ; lo) resists all suggestion concerning stones, 
walls, tables, mountains, machines, etc., but attributes 
consciousness to the sun, the wind, etc. : " Does the sun 
feel when it's hot ? — Yes. — Why ? — Because it's the sun 
that makes it hot. — Do clouds feel anything ? — They feel 
the sky. — Why ? — Because they touch the sky. — Does the 
wind feel cold ? — Yes, because it's it that makes it cold." 
Ratt thus distinguishes the spontaneous activity of the 
sun and the wind from the non-spontaneous movement 
of machines. 

Tacc (io ; 6) makes a very clear distinction between 
feeling warm and being warm (" avoir chaud " and 
etre chaud) : " Does the fire feel warm ? — No. — Why 
not ? — Because it is already warm. — Can it ever feel 
warmth ? — No. — Why not ? — Because it isn't alive. — Can 
it feel warm ? — No, because it is already warm." But 
directly he turns to the sun, the clouds, the streams, the 
wind he conceives consciousness as bound up with move- 
ment : " Are the clouds warm ? — When there is sun. — 
Are they warm or do they feel warm ? — They feel warm." 
When we undeceived Tacc he rephed : " / thought they 
were alive because they move." But he does not regard 
consciousness and hfe as entirely coinciding : " Do the 
streams feel warm or are they warm when the sun heats 
them ? — They feel warm . . . they don't feel much, because 
they aren't alive. — Why not ? — They feel a tiny bit because 
they are flowing." 

The connection between consciousness and spontaneous 
movement could not be stated more clearly. Tacc, who 
is aged io| knows exactly what degree of consciousness 
to apportion to everything and for what reason. He 
refuses consciousness to things that have been made, 
to fire and rain, but he allows it to the sun, the wind, 
the clouds and the streams. 

Imh (6, advanced) attributes consciousness to the sun, 
the clouds, etc., but refuses it to water, because water 
cannot move of its own accord : "It can flow faster, but 
only when it's sloping." Imh thus belongs to an advanced 



CONSCIOUSNESS ATTRIBUTED TO THINGS 185 

stage (the third ; see Causalite Physique) as regards the 
explanation of the movement of rivers. 

Wirt (8 ; 4) : " Could the fire feel if someone pricked 
it ? — Yes. — Why ? — Because it is alive. — Why is it alive ? 
— Because it moves. — Would a cloud feel if someone 
pricked it ? — Yes. — Why ? — Because it is alive, because it 
stays still in the air and then moves when it is windy (the 
wind does not always exclude the cloud's moving spon- 
taneously; see Causalite Physique). — Can the wind feel 
anything ? — Yes. — Why ? — Because it blows. — Can the 
water feel anything ? — Yes. — Why ? — Because it flows." 
So, too, with the sun and the moon. " Would grass feel 
if . it were pricked ? — Yes. — Why ? — Because it's alive, 
because it grows." But machines can neither feel nor 
know anything : " Does a bicycle know when it goes ? — 
jVo. — Why not ? — It isn't alive. — Why not ? — Because 
it has to be made to go." So, too, with motors, trains, 
carts, etc. 

AU these examples are clearly similar, although some 
were observed at Geneva, others in the Bernese Jura, 
etc. Certainly these children differ from one to another 
as to what they regard as a spontaneous movement. 
Some consider that fire acts of its own accord, since it 
burns all alone once it is ht ; others treat it as an induced 
activity since it has to be lit. For some, streams are free 
agents, for others the slope plays a purely mechanical 
part, etc. In studying the cause of movement it will 
be shown that every movement gives rise to one or more 
stages during which it is held to be spontaneous, and to 
several during which it is held to be determined. Further- 
more, these differences of opinion among the children 
questioned contain nothing that is not easily explicable. 
It is equally interesting to note that all the children 
agree in restricting consciousness to bodies that can move 
of themselves. This result is all the more striking since 
it will be met with again shortly in connection with the 
concept of life and quite independent of the present 
results. 

§ 4. The Fourth Stage : Consciousness is re- 
stricted TO Animals. — The best proof that the present 



i86 CHILD'S CONCEPTION OF THE WORLD 

technique is sound and that the answers it evokes are 
not due to suggestion or fabrication is the existence of 
the fourth stage. That children of 9, 8 and even 7 manage 
to answer all the questions negatively and to restrict 
consciousness to animals alone or to plants and animals 
alone, clearly shows that the questions cannot have been 
suggestive. Furthermore, it will be seen that there is a 
gradual and barely perceptible transition from the answers 
of the earlier stages to those of the final stage which is 
evidence of the value of the method adopted (see Intro- 
duction, § 3). 

The fourth stage is not reached on an average before 
the ages of 11-12, but several children of 6-7 were found 
to belong to it. 

The first examples show the continuity between the 
third and fourth stages. The following intermediate cases 
are especially significant ; consciousness of any sort is 
denied to all sublunary objects, with the exception of 
animals, but it is still attributed to the sun and the moon 
because they move of themselves : — 

Pig (9) denies consciousness to the clouds, to fire and 
to a flower " because it isn't alive." But the sun is able 
to feel : " Why ? — Because it is alive." The stars cannot 
feel " because they are just sparks. — And isn't the sun a 
spark ? — No, it is a light." The moon also is conscious, 
but not the clouds, because they are " made of smoke " 
and smoke " can't move " [ne marche pas). " Can the 
clouds move by themselves ? — No. — And the moon ? — 
Yes." Fire can't feel anything " because you have to make 
it," neither can a stream because " it's the air that makes 
it move." 

GoL (6, very advanced) restricts consciousness to 
animals and the moon " because, at night, it always goes 
to the same place." Fire, on the other hand, is not con- 
scious " because it always stays tn the same place," neither 
are clouds because " the wind drives them " {les fait 
pousser). 

Reh (6|) resists all suggestion concerning clouds, the 
wind, water, etc., but claims also that the sun doesn't 
feel. " Can the sun feel anything ? — No. — Why not ? — 
Because it isn't alive." But when the sun's movements 



CONSCIOUSNESS ATTRIBUTED TO THINGS 187 

are recalled more definitely he shows a latent animism : 
" Why does the sun rise ? So that the sun will shine {pour 
faire du soleil). — Why? — / don't know. — What does the 
sun do when there are clouds and it rains ? — It goes away 
because it's bad weather. — Why ? — Because it doesn't want 
to be rained on," etc. 

It is interesting to note that it is nearly always the 
sun and the moon which are the longest to be thought 
alive. They are, in fact, the only bodies whose move- 
ments seem as spontaneous as those of animals. Reh's 
case shows also how animism, even when on the point of 
disappearing, merges into finalism. Such a fact shows 
in itself what a delicate matter it is to form any general 
judgment on child animism. This animism is far from 
simple and is as far from common anthropomorphism as 
it is from adult mechanism. 

The following are genuine examples of the fourth 
stage : — 

Cel (10 ; 7) denies consciousness even to the sun and 
the moon " because it is not alive." " What things can 
know and feel ? — Plants, animals, people, insects. — Is 
that all ? — Yes. — Can the wind feel ? — No," etc. 

Vise (11 ; i) justifies the same standpoint by sajdng 
each time : " No (it doesn't feel anything) because it is a 
thing, it isn't alive." 

Falq (7 ; 3) gives as proof each time the matter of which 
the object is made ; thus fire can't feel " because it's burnt 
wood," clouds " because they're made of rain," the sun 
" because it's made of fire," the moon " because it is a 
little cloud " (this is the spontaneous expression of a 
conviction to be studied in Chapter IX, § 3), the wind 
" because it hasn't got a head," etc. 

The concept of " thing " used by Vise is rarely found 
before the age of 11, in the sense of an object without 
Ufe. Its appearance marks the decline of child animism. 

§ 5. Conclusions. — Before continuing the study of 
child animism, by proceeding to the analysis of the notion 
of " hfe " and that of the moral necessity of natural laws, 
the interpretation to be given to the above results must 
be stated more definitely. 



i88 CHILD'S CONCEPTION OF THE WORLD 

The answers obtained have been classified into four 
different stages. It remains now to see whether the 
systematisation impHed by these stages really exists in 
the child's spontaneous thought, and if the four types 
of answer distinguished constitute genuine stages, that is 
to say successive types of answer. 

As regards the first point, the degree of systematisation 
of animist beliefs is evidently much less than a reading 
of the above might suppose. In the child, animism is 
much more a general trend of mind, a framework into 
which explanations are fitted than a consciously systematic 
beUef. Two fundamental reasons compel us to reduce to 
such proportions the systematisations we have detected. 

The first concerns the logical structure of child thought. 
Firstly, the child's thought is much less self-conscious 
than ours, so that even such implicit systematisations as 
were found in the answers of the second stage, for example, 
are scarcely recognised by the child himself ; they are 
due to an economy of reactions (an economy enforcing 
uniformity) much more than to a deliberate eifort to be 
coherent. From this arises his inability to give a motive 
to his judgments or to justify each individual assertion. 
Thus the child in the second stage (life = movement) is 
unaware of the motives which make him answer " yes " 
or " no " to the various questions. Realisation of the 
motive and the ability to justify his answers appears 
during the third stage, but still in a rudimentary form. 
It is not till the fourth stage that systematisation becomes 
reflective rather than impUcit, and it is just at this time 
that the child mind discards animism. 

It is unnecessary to refer to the contradictions and 
difficulties experienced in dealing with elementary logical 
operations (addition and multiplication of classes and of 
propositions) which go hand in hand with this lack of 
reflective systematisation. They have already been 
sufficiently dealt with (see Judgment and Reasoning, 
Chapter II, §§ 2-4). We need only say that these facts alone 
suffice to show why we should not dream of guaranteeing 



CONSCIOUSNESS ATTRIBUTED TO THINGS 189 

the soundness of the present technique as a means of 
individual diagnosis. In fact, it may easily happen that 
a child who has just attributed consciousness to a parti- 
cular object denies it directly after ; a new factor need 
only intervene to upset the earlier view and make the 
child forget all he has said, contradict himself, change 
his beliefs, etc. Care must, therefore, be taken not to 
regard any of the examinations as establishing an absolute 
individual diagnosis. But this does not prevent the 
method having a statistical value, for so long as the 
investigation is hmited to studying the general Unes along 
which child thought develops, individual fluctuations 
compensate each other and the broad lines of the evolu- 
tionary process are disclosed. 

To these considerations concerning the structure of 
thought must be added a second reason showing the 
divergence of the obtained results from the child's spon- 
taneous thought. To form an idea as to the degree of 
systematisation of a belief it is usually sufficient to con- 
sider its function. What needs urge the child to take 
account of its implicit animism ? There are certainly 
only two. 

First, according as the child attempts to explain the 
unforeseen resistance of some object he fails to make 
obey him, he is compelled to regard it as Hving. Or, more 
generally, it is when some phenomenon appears doubtful, 
strange and above aU frightening that the child credits 
it with a purpose. But this need for an explanation 
which gives rise to animism is but momentary. As M. 
Delacroix puts it : " The sun and moon exist only when 
there are ecUpses. The universal does not exist for 
primitive man." ^ 

On the other hand, the child believes in the all-powerful 
nature of man's command over things and animism serves 
to explain the obedience of things. But this is only an 
impHcit tendency and there can be no question of a re- 
flective beUef. Only cases of exceptional obedience (such 

^ H. Delacroix, La langage et la foi, p. 40. 



190 CHILD'S CONCEPTION OF THE WORLD 

as that of the moon which according to Gol " always 
goes to the same place ") or of exceptional disobedience 
would lead the child to a genuine reflection. 

In short, animism must be regarded as resulting either 
from an implicit tendency in the child or from its reflection 
on exceptional cases. This assertion may justly awaken 
doubts firstly as to the stages we have distinguished above 
and next as to whether the order of succession traced is 
not as artificial as the systematisations characterising 
each stage. 

Indeed, the scheme we outhned according to which 
child animism decreases regularly and logically from the 
first to the fourth stage, is too simple not to put us on 
our guard. For, why are there no recrudescences of 
animism causing the curve of development to fluctuate 
and also why is no pre-animist stage to be found ? As a 
matter of fact at about the age of 5 children are found who 
seem to be much less animist than their elders. More- 
over when a child can be studied over a period of several 
months the same contradictions are found. Zim, for 
example, was in the first stage in March and in the second 
the following June. But Vel, on the other hand, was in 
the third stage in December 1922, and in the first in June 
1923 ! Also, when the same child is watched continuously 
and his questions noted and others asked on the subjects 
in which he seems most interested, it will be seen that 
the animism is always varying and is sometimes more, 
sometimes less. 

Such contradictions are of as great interest to the 
analyst as they are the despair of the statistician. But 
without further evidence it would be wrong to conclude 
that the above results were valueless, for their internal 
convergence, as well as their convergence with all the facts 
to be shown in the subsequent portion of this book, 
compel us, on the contrary, to accept them in some 
measure. The anomalies at whose frequency we have 
hinted must, therefore, be open to some explanation. 
There are, in fact, three types of factor which tend to upset 



CONSCIOUSNESS ATTRIBUTED TO THINGS 191 

to a certain extent the order of the stages outlined. These 
factors are systematisation, conscious awareness and 
vocabulary. 

The factor of systematisation may be taken to account 
for the following. It is usually just when an impHcit con- 
viction is about to be shattered that it is for the first 
time consciously affirmed. Thus, as John Burnet has 
very acutely noted, concerning pre-Socratic thought, a 
proposition is seldom stated unless it has first been denied.* 
The youngest children are thus animistic, without being 
able consciously to justify the tendency. But, directly 
the child comes up against a new hypothesis likely to 
unsettle it, the first time, for example, that it wonders 
whether a marble moves intentionally or mechanically 
{Language and Thought, p. 202) it probably adopts the 
animistic solution, for lack of a better, and then by 
reflection and by systematising extends its meaning be- 
yond the hmits which its new and latent tendencies 
warrant. Thus thought never progresses in straight lines, 
but, so to speak, spirally ; the implicit motiveless con- 
viction is succeeded by doubt, and the doubt by a reflective 
reaction, but this reflection is itself prompted by new 
imphcit tendencies, and so on. This is the explanation 
that must be given as to why so many older children 
show a more extensive animism than the youngest ; 
these children have momentarily found need for this 
animism, because they have encountered some pheno- 
menon which their thought cannot explain mechanically, 
but it is a secondary systematisation which has led them 
to these opinions, and the resulting animism is not identical 
with but only comparable to that of the younger 
children. 

The second factor which makes such distortion of 
meaning possible is conscious awareness. Since the child 
has no clear consciousness of the implicit systematisation 
in his mind, it necessarily happens that at the time when 
he comes to realise, either as the result of our questions 

^ John Burnet, The Dawn oj Greek Philosophy. 



192 CHILD'S CONCEPTION OF THE WORLD 

or of a spontaneous reflection, the existence of certain of 
his animistic convictions, he will be led to exaggerate 
their extent. Thus, when discovering that the clouds 
know they move he will credit all moving bodies with 
consciousness without realising that he intends only to 
attribute it to bodies moving spontaneously. This is that 
same difficulty of exclusion or of logical multiplication, 
which we have shown elsewhere to be so largely dependent 
on factors involving conscious awareness [Judgment and 
Reasoning, Chapter IV, § 2). In simpler language, it 
means that, in speaking, the child does not succeed — 
any more than we do — in expressing his thought really 
accurately ; he is continually straining it, through in- 
ability to recollect every shade of meaning. This per- 
petual lack of adjustment between spoken and implicit 
thought makes the child appear when questioned some- 
times more and sometimes less animist than he reaUy is. 
And the child is himself deceived. This is the second 
factor which causes irregularity in the succession of the 
stages we distinguished. 

Finally, there is vocabulary, which also plays an im- 
portant part. The word " to know," for example, cer- 
tainly has a narrower meaning to a child of 5 than to one 
of 10. To a small child " to know " means " to know 
Uke a grown-up," to an older child it simply means " to 
be conscious of." In this way words, by altering in mean- 
ing, at times impel the child to extend his animism and 
at others force him to restrict it. 

In conclusion, it is clear how these three factors can 
account for the inconstancy in the general development 
of child animism. Are we to conclude that the four types 
of answer do not constitute stages at all, but that, on 
broad lines all that can be said is that the child passes 
from an integral animism to one of a more restricted 
type ? Obviously not. Each of the children, taken 
alone, might possibly show an impUcit systematisation 
different from that brought out by our questions, each 
is capable, also of retrogressive movements in the series 



CONSCIOUSNESS ATTRIBUTED TO THINGS 193 

of stages just as much as of progressing in a straight 
line, but, on the average, the four types of answer 
obtained certainly constitute the types of systematisation 
through which the child's spontaneous thought really 
passes, and these four types correspond to four stages. 



CHAPTER VI 
THE CONCEPT OF "LIFE" 

It will be of interest to complete the preceding research 
by a corresponding study of the ideas children under- 
stand by the word " life." There is, indeed, nothing to 
show that the concepts of " hfe " and of " consciousness " 
are completely synonymous any more than they are to an 
adult. But it seems that the idea of " life " is in certain 
respects more famiUar to the child than the ideas under- 
stood by the words " knowing " and " feehng." It seems 
hkely, therefore, that a study of it may reveal clearer 
systematisations than those found in the preceding chapter 
and that the children's answers wiU all show a higher 
development of logical justification and argument. More- 
over, if the results of this chapter are found to agree with 
those of the preceding, there wiU be a certain guarantee 
in this resemblance. We must, therefore, beg the reader 
to excuse the repetitions which a study of the concept 
of " life " will inevitably involve. 

The technique used is very similar to that followed 
hitherto. It consists in asking whether each of a number 
of objects enumerated is ahve and why. The same pre- 
caution must be taken as before to avoid both simple 
suggestion and perseveration. 

The results obtained have again clearly shown the four 
stages previously defined in connection with the attributing 
of consciousness to things. During the first stage every- 
thing is regarded as living which has activity or a function 
or a use of any sort. During the second stage, life is de- 
fined by movement, all movement being regarded as in a 

194 



THE CONCEPT OF " LIFE " 195 

certain degree spontaneous. During the third stage, the 
child distinguishes spontaneous movement from move- 
ment imposed by an outside agent and life is identLSed 
with the former. Finally, in the fourth stage, life is 
restricted either to animals or to animals and plants. 
NaturaUy a child who belongs to a particular stage in the 
series will not necessarily belong to the same stage in the 
series concerning consciousness (excepting those children 
of the second stage who have not yet come to distinguish 
spontaneous movement from movement in general). On 
the contrary, each child shows a considerable divergence 
between the extension it attributes to the two concepts 
of life and of consciousness. We do not, therefore, intend 
to suggest a correlation between individual cases but 
rather a parallelism between the respective processes by 
which the notions of " life " and of " consciousness " 
are evolved. This is, moreover, of a much greater interest, 
since what gives the parallelism its value is the fact 
that all suggestion of perseveration is excluded. Such a 
parallehsm shows how constant and spontaneous the 
child's thought remains notwithstanding the influences 
due to its adult environment and the clumsiness of 
our questions. 

From the point of view of our research, the fact that 
the child's notion of Hfe is more systematised than its 
notion of consciousness, carries also certain disadvan- 
tages. The child will add to its spontaneous ideas various 
adventitious definitions (to live is to speak, or to be 
warm, or to have blood, etc.). But all the children who 
gave these secondary definitions were also able to give 
the usual answers, all being simply juxtaposed together, 
so that it was possible to neglect these various secondary 
notions, whose completely individual character clearly 
showed them to be the result of chance conversations 
overheard, etc. 

Further, according to the lengths to which the system- 
atisation of the concept has been carried by the individual 
child, retrogressive steps in his development from stage 



196 CHILD'S CONCEPTION OF THE WORLD 

to stage occur, comparable to those described in the study 
of the notion of consciousness, which make certain cases 
particularly hard to classify. But, apart from these two 
disadvantages, the inquiry proved easier to undertake 
than that described in the last chapter. 

§ I. The First Stage : Life is assimilated to 
Activity in General. — Despite a certain diversity, the 
answers of the first stage all rested on a common basis, 
which lay in defining life in terms of activity, and what 
was especially interesting, in terms of an activity in 
most cases useful to man and always clearly anthropo- 
centric. 

Vel (8|) : " Is the sun alive 7— Yes.— Why 7— It gives 
light. — Is a candle alive ? — No. — Why not ? — (Yes) because 
it gives light. It is alive when it is giving light, but it isn't 
alive when it is not giving light. — Is a bicycle alive ? — No, 
when it doesn't go it isn't alive. When it goes it is alive. — 
Is a mountain alive ? — No. — Why not ? — Because it 
doesn't do anything (!) — Is a tree alive ? — No ; when it has 
fruit it's alive. When it hasn't any, it isn't alive." " Is a 
watch alive ? — Yes. — Why ? — Because it goes. — Is a 
bench alive ? — No, it's only for sitting on. — Is an oven 
alive ? — Yes, it cooks the dinner and the tea and the supper. 
— Is a gun aUve ? — Yes, it shoots. — Is the play-bell alive ? 
— Yes, it rings." Vel even goes so far as to say that poison 
is aUve " because it can kill us." 

Tann (8) : " Is a window-pane alive ? — It's as if it was 
alive, but it's not like us. The pane stops the air coming in, 
but it can't move. — Is it ahve or not ? — It's alive . , ." 
" Is a stone alive ? . . , (It's ahve) if you throw it, or if 
you kick it to make it go." " Is a cloud alive ? — Yes, it's 
living, and when it comes down in rain it goes back again." 
To elucidate Tann's meaning we used the following pro- 
cedure, which though very artificial is excellent for 
determining the child's natural trend of mind : " Which 
is more alive, a stone or a lizard ? — A lizard, because a 
stone can't move. — The sun or a stone ? — The sun because 
it does something, but a stone isn't much use. — A fly or a 
cloud ? — A fly because it's an animal, a cloud is a thing. — 
What is an animal ? — Something that's not like us. It's 
useful. A horse is useful. It can't go to school. It isn't 
like us. — Which is more ahve, rain or fire ? — Rain. — Why ? 



THE CONCEPT OF " LIFE " 197 

— Rain is stronger than Jire, because it can put out fire, hut 
fire can't light rain." 

Reyb (8 ; 7) : " Are you alive ? — Yes, because I'm not 
dead. — Is a fly alive ? — Yes, because it's not dead. — Is the 
sun alive ? — Yes because it makes it daytime. — Is a candle 
alive ? — Yes, because you can light it. — Is the wind alive ? 
— Yes, because it makes it cold, it makes people cold. — 
Are clouds alive ? — Yes, because they make it rain," etc. 

Per (ii ; 7) : " Is thunder alive ? — / don't think so. — 
Why not ? — It isn't like other things, people or trees or 
things like that. — Is lightning alive ? — No. — Why not ? — 
It isn't any use (!) — What is a hving thing ? — A man who 
is alive. — Is the sun aUve ? — Yes. — Why ? — It gives us 
light. — Is fire aUve ? — Yes, it's used for lots of things," etc. 

It is evident what meaning these children give to the 
word " aUve." It means "to do something," or for 
choice "to be able to move " (Vel, Tann ; a mountain 
can't do anything, a bench is " only for sitting on"), but it 
also means to act without changing position, the oven, 
the candle, etc., are ahve. Even such an idea as that of 
the nature of an animal is defined in tenns of utihty 
(Tann). At other times to be alive means simply to have 
force ; thus poison, rain, etc. are aUve. 

Some of these children give life the same significance 
as consciousness (thus Vel and Reyb are also in the first 
stage as regards the attributing of consciousness to things). 
Others, however, give life a much wider meaning (for 
example, Tann and Per, who are in the third stage when 
the questions concern consciousness). 

Despite these differences, however, the answers of this 
first stage have all a common basis which lies in asserting 
the idea of a fundamental final cause in nature and a 
continuum of forces destined to bring about these ends. 
This idea is certainly not peculiar to the answers obtained 
by means of the present technique, but appears to be one 
of the most fundamental ideas in child thought. This 
first stage lasts in fact up to the ages of 6 or 7, and it is 
well known that at this age the nature of children's 
definitions bears out in a striking manner what we have 



198 CHILD'S CONCEPTION OF THE WORLD 

just found. According to Binet and many others, children 
of about the age of 6 define an object by " its use " and not 
by genus and the specific difference between one genus 
and another. Thus a mountain is "to climb up " or "to 
shut in " {i.e. to hmit the horizon), a country is "to travel 
in," the sun is " to warm us " or " to give us light," etc. 
{see J lodgment and Rearoning, Chapter IV, § 2). That this 
notion of a final cause impUes a creator who has fashioned 
everything for a determined end wiU be shown in what 
follows later and does not immediately concern us. But 
the idea of so complete a determinism implies that every 
object is endowed with a particular activity and force 
destined to enable it to fulfil its r61e. That is to say, 
that if certain objects obstruct the sun on its way (such 
as the wind, the clouds, the night, etc.) the sun must 
necessarily be gifted with the necessary qualities to 
triumph and to succeed notwithstanding in fulfilling its 
role in the required time. Final cause implies an efficient 
cause in the form of a force immanent in the object and 
directing it towards its destined end. To the child's 
mind the idea of " life " fulfils this function. 

We shall again find in a new form a conclusion already 
formed as a result of the study of children's questions 
{Language and Thought, Chapter V). The very way in 
which a child frames its questions shows that physical 
causality is for him still undifferentiated from psychological 
and purposive association. It is a case of " precausality." 
It will be clearly seen how near this concept approaches 
the notion of " life " examined above, life being regarded 
as a force that is both material and purposive. Children's 
" whys " are, therefore, at bottom a search for a biological 
explanation : " Why does the Rhone go so fast ? " is in 
fact the same order of question as " Why does that ant 
go so fast ? " it being taken for granted that every animal 
whilst moving of its own accord is, as stated by Tann, 
" useful " to man. 

Is such an idea primitive or derived ? In other words 
is it already present in children of 3 or 4, that is to say in 



THE CONCEPT OF " LIFE " 199 

children too young to be able to answer our questions, 
since not yet knowing the word " life " ? It seems that 
it is. At least this is what a study of the language and 
behaviour of children of this age seems to suggest. At 
aU events, everything appears to suggest that as soon as 
the appearance of the word " life " gives rise to a system- 
atisation of the corresponding concept, the form of this 
concept is from the first that which was found in the stage 
studied above. 

§ 2. The Second Stage : Life is assimilated to 
Movement. — As was the case for the corresponding stage 
in the series dealing with consciousness, so this stage is 
also one of transition above all. We obtained, however, 
quite enough clearly-defined examples to shield ourselves 
from the reproach of adding another stage which, hke a 
false window, serves no purpose but merely lends sym- 
metry to the edifice. 

ZiMM (7 ; 9 and 8 ; i) was questioned in March and 
June of the same year. In March he was intermediate 
between the first and second stages. In June he clearly 
defined hfe in terms of movement in general : — 

In March : " You know what it is to ' be alive ' ? — 
It's when you can do things (this definition seems as if 
belonging to the first stage, but, as we shall see, Zimm is 
thinking principally of movement). — Is a cat alive ? — Yes. 
— A snail ? — Yes. — A table ?—No. — Why not ? — It can't 
move. — Is a bicycle alive ? — Yes. — Why ? — It can go. — 
Is a cloud ahve ? — Yes. — Why ? — // sometimes moves. — 
Is water alive ? — Yes, it moves. — Is it alive when it doesn't 
move ? — Yes. — Is a bicycle ahve when it isn't moving ? — 
Yes, it's alive, even when it doesn't move. — Is a lamp alive ? 
— Yes, it shines. — Is the moon alive? — Yes, sometimes it 
hides behind the mountains." 

In June : " Is a stone alive ^ — Yes. — Why ? — // moves 
[il marche). — When does it move? — Some days, some- 
times. — How does it move ? — By rolling. — Is the table 
alive ? — No, it can't move. — Is the Saleve ahve ? — No, 
it can't move. — Is the Rhone alive ? — Yes. — Why ? — It 
moves. — Is the lake alive ? — Yes, it moves. — Always ? 
— Yes. — Is a bicycle alive ? — Yes. — Why ? — It goes [die 
marche)," etc. 



200 CHILD'S CONCEPTION OF THE WORLD 

JuiLL (7^) : " Is a lizard alive ? — Yes. — A nail ? — No. 
— A flower ? — No. — A tree ? — No. — Is the sun alive ? — 
Yes. — Why ? — Because it moves when it has to (Parceque 
quand il faut (!) il marche). — Are clouds alive ? — Yes, 
because they move and then they hit (ils marchent, puis ils 
tapent). — What do they hit ? — They make the thunder when 
it rains. — Is the moon alive ? — Yes, because it moves (elle 
marche). — The fire ? — Yes, because it crackles. — Is the 
wind alive ? — Yes, because on a windy day it's cold, it's 
alive because it moves (il bouge). — A stream ? — Yes, because 
it's always going faster. — A mountain ? — No, because it's 
always in the same place (elle reste toujours debout). — A 
motor ? — Yes, because it moves," etc. 

Kenn (7 1) : "Is water alive }—Yes. — Why ? — It moves 
(elle bouge). — Is fire alive ? — Yes, it moves (9a bouge). — 
Is the sun alive ? — Yes, it moves (il avance)," etc. 

VoG (8:6): " Are you alive ? — Yes. — Why ? — / can 
walk and I go and play. — Is a fish ahve ? — Yes, because it 
swims." " Is a bicycle alive ? — Yes. — Why ? — // can go. 
— Is a cloud ahve ? — Yes. — Why ? — Because it can go (il 
pent aller). — Is the moon ahve ? — Yes. — Why ? — It guides 
us at night." 

Cess (8) : " Is a horse aUve ? — Yes. — Is a table alive ? 
— No. — Why not ? — Because it's been made." " Is the 
moon alive ? — No, because it always stays in the same place. 
— Doesn't it ever move ? — Sometimes. — When ? — When you 
walk.— Is it ahve or not ? — Alive. — Why ? — When you 
walk." "Is the wind alive ? — Yes. — Why ? — Because it 
goes gently and then fast (parce qu'il marche et puis il 
court)," etc. 

Keut (9 ; 3) answered the question " You know what 
it is to be alive ? " straightway by sajang, " Yes to 
move (!) " 

Gries (9 ; i) answered as follows from the beginning : 
" You know what it is to be alive ? — Yes, to be able to move. 
— Is the lake ahve ? — Not always. — Why not ? — Some- 
times there are waves and sometimes there aren't any." 
" Is a cloud alive ? — Yes, it moves as if it were walking 
(c'est comme s'il marchait). — Is a bicycle alive ? — Yes, it 
goes (elle roule)." 

Kaen (11) : " Is a stream alive ? — Yes, it goes (il roule). 
— Is the lake alive ? — Yes, it is always moving a bit. — Is 
a cloud alive ? — Yes, you can see it moviiig (on le voit 
marcher). — Grass ? — Yes, it can grow." 

The impression these children give is that the assimila- 



THE CONCEPT OF " LIFE " 201 

tion of life to movement is evidently simply a matter 
of words. That is to say, the word " hfe " means 
simply movement, but this movement has none of 
the characteristics with which we should define 
life, such as spontaneity, purpose, etc. The child says 
that a stream is alive just as a physicist would say that 
a movement has been " imparted to it," that it " has 
acceleration," etc. 

We think, however, the matter goes deeper, and that 
movement in general is really thought to possess the 
characteristics of life. Three sound reasons suggest this 
interpretation. The first is that the spontaneous ques- 
tions of children prove that the definition of life is a 
problem with which they are really concerned and that 
the assimilation of hfe to movement has a genuine mean- 
ing in their eyes. Thus Del at the age of 6| (see Language 
and Thought, p. 197) asks concerning some leaves, " Are 
they dead ? — Yes. — But they move with the wind." 
The second reason is that this second stage is followed by 
one in which the child distinguishes spontaneous move- 
ment from movement imparted from without (third 
stage). The average ages in fact of children in the 
stage under consideration are 6-8, whilst the third stage 
lasts on an average from the ages of 8-9 to the ages 
of 11-12. But, apart from certain exceptions, it is only 
during this later stage that the distinction is made be- 
tween spontaneous and imparted movement ; until then 
all movement is regarded as spontaneous and the assimila- 
tion of life to movement is thus more than a mere matter 
of words. The third and final reason is that the whole 
study of the child's view of the physical world, to be 
undertaken later (see La Causalite Physique), confirms 
the reality of this confusion between the mechanical and 
the biological. 

§ 3. The Third and Fourth Stages : Life is assimi- 
lated TO Spontaneous Movement, then later is 
restricted to Animals and Plants. — The best proof 
of the genuineness of the convictions of the first and 



202 CHILD'S CONCEPTION OF THE WORLD 

second stages is the systematisation and persistence of 
the ideas now to be studied as characteristic of the third 
stage. The assimilation of the idea of hfe to that of 
spontaneous movement marks in fact the most important 
stage in child animism and the richest in its applications. 
For before arriving at any such systematisation, the child 
must for a long time have been feehng out in that direction 
and have already assimilated the idea of life either to that 
of activity in general or to that of movement of whatever 
kind. 

The following examples are drawn from the most 
reflective answers obtained from children of this stage : — 

Sart (i2|) : " You know what it means to be aUve ? 
— y^s.— Is a fly ahve ? — Yes. — Why ? — Because if it 
wasn't alive it couldn't fly." " Is a bicycle alive ? — No. — 
Why not ? — Because it's we who make it go. — Is a horse 
alive ? — Yes. — Why }^He helps man." " Are clouds 
alive ? — Yes. — Why ? — No, they're not. — Why not ? — 
Clouds aren't alive. If they were alive they could come and 
go as they wanted (ils seraient en voyage). — It's the lejind 
that drives them (!) — Is the wind ahve ? — Y^s.— Why ? — 
It's alive, because it's the wind that drives the clouds. — Are 
streams alive ? — Yes, because the water is flowing all the 
time.- — Is a motor ? — No, it's the engine that makes it go. — 
Is the engine alive ? — No, it's man who makes the engine 
go. — Is the sun alive ? — Yes, it makes the sunshine and 
gives light during the day. — Is the lake alive ? — No, because 
the lake is all alone and it can't ever move by itself (il bouge 
jamais)." 

Fran (15 ; 5) : " Is a worm ahve ? — Yes, it can walk. — 
Is a cloud ahve ? — No, the wind drives it. — Is a bicycle 
alive }—No, it's we who make them move. — Is the wind 
alive ? — No, it goes quickly enough, but it's something else 
that drives it (!) (il marche bien, mais c'est autre chose 
qui le pousse). — Is fire alive ? — Yes, it can move on its 
own (il bouge lui-meme). — Is a stream ? — Yes, it flows all 
alone. — Is the wind ahve 7- -Yes. — Just now you said it 
wasn't. Which do you mean ? — It's alive. — Why ? — It 
can move by itself (il bouge lui-mem(^). — Why ? — // drives 
itself (!) (il se pousse lui-meme).-- Is a cloud alive ? — No, 
it's the wind that drives it." 

Barb (6) is exceedingly clear, despite his age : " Tell 



THE CONCEPT OF " LIFE " 203 

me some things that are ahve. — Butterflies, elephants, 
people, the sun. — The moon ? — Yes, also. — Are stones 
ahve ? — No. — Why not ? — / don't know ? — Why ? — Be- 
cause they aren't alive. — Are motors ahve ? — No. — Why 
not ? — I don't know. — What does it mean to be ahve ? — 
To be able to move all alone (!) — Is water ahve ? — No. — 
Doesn't it move aU alone ? — Yes." Later on, however, 
owing to his age, Barb fell back into the second stage : 
" Are stones alive ? — No. — Not when they roU ? — Yes, 
when they roll they're alive. When they're still, they're not 
alive." 

EuG (8^) : " Are clouds ahve ? — No, the wind drives 
them. — Is water ahve ? — No, the wind makes it move. — Is 
a bicycle ? — No, what makes it go is when you ride on it. — 
Which is more alive, the wind or a bicycle ? — The wind, it 
can go for as long as it wants to. You make a bicycle stop 
sometimes." 

Pois (7 ; 2) : " Are clouds alive ? — No, because they 
can't move, it's the wind that makes them go." The wind, 
the sun and the earth are ahve " because they move (parce 
que ^a bouge)." 

Nic (10 ; 3) : A cloud is not alive " because it can't move 
(marcher). It isn't alive. It's the wind that drives it (qui 
le pousse)." The wind, on the other hand, is alive " because 
it makes the other things move and it moves itself (il fait 
avancer les autres choses et il avance lui-meme)." 

Chant (8 ; 11) attributes hfe to the sun and stars, the 
clouds, the wind and water " because they can go wherever 
they want to," but denies it to the lake " because the lake 
can't go from one lake to another," etc. 

Mos (11 ; 6) denies life to machines, to water, etc. 
" because they can't move (bouger)," but he ascribes it to 
fire, to the sun and stars and the clouds " because they 
move." Evidently, therefore, be means spontaneous 
movement. 

It is obvious that owing to the difficulty children 
experience in realising what their own thoughts are, the 
majority of these cases are less clear than those in the 
preceding sections. We have discussed elsewhere [Judg- 
ment and Reasoning, Chapter IV, § 2) the cases of Grand, 
Schnei, Horn, who belong to this stage yet are unable to 
think of a definition of hfe corresponding to the examples 
they give. 



204 CHILD'S CONCEPTION OF THE WORLD 

It is unnecessary to deal with the fourth stage, during 
which Ufe is restricted to animals alone, or to plants and 
animals. It appears that three-quarters of the children 
do not reach this stage before the ages of 11-12. Until 
then the sun and stars and the wind are systematically 
endoXved with hfe and consciousness. 

The majority of children, in the two last stages, assign 
the same meaning to life as to consciousness, but some, 
like Sart, give consciousness a wider significance. The 
reason for this will be considered in the following section. 

§ 4. Conclusion : the Notion of " Life." — The 
reader cannot fail to be struck by the remarkable corre- 
spondence between the four stages analysed in this 
chapter and the four stages into which the answers 
dealing with consciousness were classified. Although only 
two-fifths of the children belonged to the same stage in 
both series, the evolution of the two notions obeys the 
same laws and follows the same direction. Undoubtedly, 
as has already been pointed out, certain adventitious 
ideas arise which unsettle the notions of some of the 
children ; yet, although a number of children used such 
ideas as being able to speak or having blood, etc., to 
define life, not a single case was found (among those who 
knew the word naturally) of a child who failed to bring 
in also the idea of activity and movement. The schema 
outhned may, therefore, be taken as general. 

We must now face the problem that confronted us in 
dealing with consciousness, as to whether there is direct 
progression from one stage to the next or whether there 
exist retrogressive movements which set the child back 
temporarily in an earlier stage. Evidently it will be the 
same in both cases, and the three apparently regressive 
factors found in the attributing of consciousness to things 
will exist equally in the evolution of the notion of 
" life." 

What is of greater interest is to define the exact relation- 
ship which connects the notion of hfe to that of conscious- 
ness ? As regards the signification of the two concepts 



THE CONCEPT OF " LIFE " 205 

the results were very clear. Two-fifths of the children 
questioned were found to be in the same stage in each 
series. These two-fifths were more advanced in their 
ideas concerning hfe, that is to say, they attributed Ufe 
to fewer objects than they did consciousness. Finally, 
only one-fifth showed the inverse relationship, that is to 
say, regarded objects as living to which they denied 
consciousness. In conclusion, therefore, the notion of 
consciousness seems to have a wider extension for the 
child than the notion of hfe. 

This result is particularly striking among the youngest. 
That is to say, children who are in the first or second 
stage when speaking of consciousness are generally found 
to be in a more advanced stage for ideas concerning Ufe. 
The elder children, on the contrary, that is to say, those 
in the third and fourth stages, are usually in the same 
stage in the two parallel series. 

Naturally, in arriving at these statistics we took the 
necessary precaution of not questioning all the children 
in the same order. Some were questioned on hfe before 
being questioned on consciousness, others the reverse ; 
some were questioned first on knowing or being awaie, 
then on hfe, and lastly feeling, etc. All the answers were 
examined to see they were not due to perseveration. We, 
therefore, feel justified in regarding the results as free 
from " systematic errors." 

What may be deduced from these facts ? They seem to 
point to the conclusion that the evolution of the notion of 
Ufe determines the evolution of the notion of conscious- 
ness. In other words, it is the child's classification of 
things into Uving and not-Uving which guides him in 
attributing consciousness to them. There is certainly 
no definite reasoning or purpose in this, at any rate so 
far as the younger children are concerned, and this ex- 
plains the lack of correspondence of the stages between 
the two evolutions. But his reflections on " life " accustom 
the child to regard the movements of nature as of different 
kinds, and this consideration of types {i.e. the type of 



2o6 CHILD'S CONCEPTION OF THE WORLD 

spontaneous movement) comes gradually to influence his 
ideas on consciousness. 

It is evident from this that the explanation of move- 
ment is of extreme importance in the thought of the 
child. The analysis of this explanation wiU be under- 
taken in the sequel to this work {La Causalitd Physique). 
For the time being, it need only be said that the extension 
of the notion of " life " seems to indicate the presence in 
the child's universe of a continuum of free forces endowed 
with activity and purpose. Between magical causaUty, 
according to which all things revolve around the self and 
the dynamism of material forces the notion of hfe forms 
an intermediary Hnk. Bom of the idea that all things are 
directed towards an end and that this end supposes a free 
activity as the means of attaining it, the notion of life 
gradually becomes reduced to the idea of force or of being 
the cause of spontaneous movement. 



CHAPTER VII 

THE ORIGINS OF CHILD ANIMISM, 
MORAL NECESSITY AND PHYSICAL 
DETERMINISM 

There are three preliminary problems which must be 
discussed before any attempt can be made to trace the 
origins of child animism. We shall start by grouping in 
a first section such facts as we have been able to arrive 
at by pure observation (in opposition to those collected 
in answer to questions). Secondly, we shall analyse the 
only conviction, both systematic and entirely spontaneous, 
revealed by the preceding questions, namely the behef 
of children that the sun and moon follow them. Thirdly, 
we must examine the type of necessity (moral necessity 
and physical determinism) which the child ascribes to 
regular movements such as the laws of nature. The study 
of the obedience of the sun and moon will serve as intro- 
duction, moreover, to this more general research, which is 
indispensable to an analysis of the roots of anunism. 
We shall then be in a position to conclude with an ex- 
planation of the origins of child animism. 

§ I, The Child's Spontaneous Animism. — Books on 
psychology and pedagogy abound in examples of traces 
of animism shown by children. It would be tedious to 
quote them all, nor is it necessary since they are not all 
of equal value. Animism during play (such as the endow- 
ing of personality to dolls) forms in particular a special 
problem which we shall not treat here 

We shall start by giving some adult recollections. 
Those of deaf-mutes are particularly important, since they 

207 



2o8 CHILD'S CONCEPTION OF THE WORLD 

show the affective tonahty which animism may assume 
among children who have received no trace of religious 
education. 

James ^ quotes the case of a deaf-mute, Thomas 
d'EsteUa, who became a professor and left an account of 
his early recollections. D'Estrella tells how nothing 
aroused his curiosity so greatly as the moon. He feared 
it yet always loved to watch it. He noted the impression 
of a face in the fuU moon and thence supposed it to be a 
Uving Being. He then tried to prove whether or not it 
was alive. He attempted this in four different ways. 
The first was to shake his head from right to left with 
his eyes fixed on the moon. It seemed to him that the 
moon followed the movements of his head down and up 
and from side to side. He thought, too, that the lights 
were alive for he made the same experiments with them. 
When he went for a walk he would look to see if the moon 
was following him and it seemed to do so wherever he 
went. (For his further reasons for beheving the moon to 
be alive see Chapter IV, § 2.) 

Another deaf-mute studied by James ^ spoke of regarding 
the sun and moon " with a sort of reverence " because 
of their powers of lighting and heating the earth. Later 
he teUs how his mother talked to him of a Being up there, 
pointing with her finger to the sky with a solemn look, 
and how in his anxiety to know more he overwhelmed her 
with questions to know whether she meant the sun, the 
moon or the stars.^ 

In the memories of normal children, animism has 
naturally quite a different affective tonality. Cases such 
as the following, for example, are not at aU uncommon : — 

One of us recalls having set herself the following obliga- 
tions as a child. If by chance she displaced a stone that 
had been partially buried in the ground, she put it back 

^ William James, " Thought before Language," Philosophical Review I, 
(1892). pp. 613-624. 

^ Principles of Psychology, I, p. 266. 

' See also Pratt, Psychology of Religious Belief. 

In Sintenis' Pisleron (Leipzig, 1800) occurs a very curious account 
of the formation of an animist belief concerning the sun. Bovet gives 
a summary of it in Le Sentiment religieux et la psychologic de I'Enfant, 
Delachaux et Niestl6, 1925. 



THE ORIGINS OF CHILD ANIMISM 209 

in its place so that it should not suffer from having been 
moved. Or again, if she brought home a flower, or a 
pebble she always brought several flowers or pebbles at 
the same time so that they should have company and not 
feel lonely. 

Another felt compelled, on the other hand, to move 
stones from the path every now and then so that they 
wouldn't always have exactly the same view to look at. 

This last recolJection entirely agrees with that of Miss 
Ingelow related by Sully. ^ 

But let us leave these recollections and consider some 
remarks and questions furnished by direct observation. 
It has often been noticed how frequently children's 
questions betray an animistic point of view, and that what 
usually prompts them to ask such questions is the observa- 
tion of movement. Stanley Hall, in particular, has 
confirmed Sully's statement that the child's questions 
result from his having assimilated life to movement. ^ He 
also observed that even those children who have acquired 
the idea of God endow things with intense powers of 
organisation.^ For example, Stanley HaU collected the 
following questions concerning the wind : — 

A boy of 6 years asked what made the wind blow. 
Was somebody pushing it ? He thought it ought to stop 
when it came up against a house or a big tree. He asked 
also if it knew that it was making the pages of his book 
turn over. 

This same question is found with other children of the 
same age concerning moving objects : — 

Del at the age of 6| saw a marble rolling in the direction 
of Mile V. on a sloping surface : " What makes it go ? — It's 
because the ground isn't flat, it slopes, it goes downhill. — 
Does it (the marble) know that you're there?" [Language 
and Thought, p. 202.) 

At the same age we collected also conversations of the 
following type : — 

^ Sully, Studies of Childhood, p. 31. See also pp. 94-96, in which 

Sully records observations of children attributing life to smoke and 
fire, to the wind and even to machines. 

* Pedagogical Seminary. 1903, p. 335. * Ibid., p. 333. 



210 CHILD'S CONCEPTION OF THE WORLD 

Lev. (6) watching what Hei (6) is doing : " Two moons. 
— No, two suns. — Suns aren't like that with a mouth. They 
are like the real suns up there. — They're round. — Yes, 
they're quite round, hut they haven't got eyes and a mouth. — 
Yes they have, they can see. — No, they can't. It's only God 
who can see." {Language and Thought, p. 24.) 

Rasmussen (i) noted in his daughter at the age of four 
the behef that the moon follows us, a conviction we have 
already noted frequently and which wiU be studied 
systematically in the next section : — 

R (aged 4) seeing the moon : " There's the moon, it's 
round. . . . It goes on when we go on." Later, when the 
moon was hidden behind a cloud : " Look, now it's been 
killed." R was told that the moon is not really moving at 
all and that it only seems as if it is. But three da3's later 
she said : " Every now and then the moon disappears ; perhaps 
it goes to see the ram in the clouds, or perhaps it's cold." 

Questions of children of the ages of 5, 6 and 7 are also 
very often concerned with death, and show their attempts 
to find a definition of life. In Chapter VI (§ 2) we 
recalled Del's question {Are those leaves dead .^ — Yes. — 
But they move with the wind /) which points clearly to the 
assimilation of the ideas of life and movement. 

The animism of younger children is much more implicit 
and unformulated. They do not question whether things 
know what they are doing, nor whether things are alive 
or dead, since on no point has their animism yet been 
shaken. They simply talk about things in the terms used 
for human beings, thus endowing them with will, desire, 
and conscious activity. But the important question in 
each case is to know just up to what point they really 
beheve in these expressions or to what extent they are 
merely a matter of words. But it is impossible to question 
them on this. The only method of gaining an insight is 
careful observation, both of the child's behaviour and of 
his words. The following, for example, is the case of a 
little girl who one morning found the eyes of her doll had 
disappeared (fallen into the inside of the head). Despair 
and tears ! She was then promised that the doll should 



THE ORIGINS OF CHILD ANIMISM 211 

be taken back to the shop to be mended, and for the next 
three days she was continually asking with the most 
obvious anxiety whether the doll was still bad and if it 
hurt her to be mended. 

But in the majority of cases, the child's behaviour is 
not nearly so instructive. The best method when a par- 
ticular expression appears to be prompted by animism, is 
to study, by comparison with other remarks of the same 
child, the exact use it makes of this expression. The 
following is an example of the method, appUed to the use 
of the interrogative " who " (" qui and qui est-ce que "). 
This use of the word " who " (^qui ") to describe things 
as if the}^ were people is indeed a striking characteristic 
of the language of children between the ages of 2 and 3. 
Is it a question of animism or of verbal economy ? 

Nel (2 ; 9) knows the word " what " (" qu'est-ce que ") 
as she uses it in such expressions as " what's thai ? {qu'est-ce 
c'est la) " — pointing to a dustbin ; " what's that over there, 
boxes ? " — pointing to some cardboard boxes ; " what are 
you doing there ? " The same form was used also when 
referring to a heap of plates, a stone, a rowan-tree, a field, 
a dried -up spring, a tree-trunk, moss, blackberries, a 
drawing. The objects thus designed are all, it will be 
noticed, motionless. Nel uses the word " who " (qui) ^ (i) for 
people : " who is that playing music ? " " who gave that ? " 
(a chalk). (2) For animals : cows, dog, etc. She asked 
the question " who is that calling ? " about hens, thrushes, 
starlings, crows, owls, etc., both when they were in full 
view and when she could not see them. In front of a 
grasshopper she said : " Hallo, Grasshopper, who are you ? " 
(3) To trains: Who's that?" (4) To boats: "Who's 
that?" (this to a large boat she saw on the lake and 
which was unlike the steamers she knew). (5) To mechani- 
cal noises: "Who is making thai noise?" (a motor). 
" Who is making that hanging? " (a gun). " Who is making 
that sound ? " (the same). It is true that in the last examples 
Nel may perhaps only mean who is shooting or who is 

^ In French ' qui " is the equivalent of the interrogative " who " 
and " qu'est-ce que " of " what " " Who " is therefore more easily 
said than " what." The mistake appears to be much less common in 
English. [Translator's note.] 



212 CHILD'S CONCEPTION OF THE WORLD 

driving the motor, etc. But this explanation does not 
seem to fit all the cases. (6) To water : " Who has made 
it dirty? Is it the ram who's made the fire-place dirty?" 
(7) To some smooth round pebbles : " Who's that ? Who 
is it that I've spat on?" 

It seems, therefore, that Nel uses " who " for all objects 
that move and that in this she is attributing life to such 
objects. Moreover we have found " who " used in speaking 
of the Rhone and the lake up to the age of 7. This use 
of " who " certainly proves nothing by itself. But, as 
remains to be shown, moving bodies inspire innumerable 
animistic expressions in very young children, the cumu- 
lative effect of which is certainly to suggest a tendency of 
mind rather than a mere metaphorical manner of speaking. 

Cli (3 ; 9) speaking of a motor in a garage : " The 
motor's gone to bye-byes. It doesn't go out because of the ram 
[elle fait dodo, elle sort pas . . . )." 

Bad (3) : " The bells have woken up, haven't they ? " 

Nel (2 ; 9) seeing a hollow chestnut tree : " Didn't it 
cry when the hole was made ? " To a stone : " Not to touch 
my garden! . . . My garden wo.ild cry." Nel, after throw- 
ing a stone on to a sloping bank watching the stone rolling 
down said : " Look at the stone. It's afraid of the grass." 

Nel scratched herself against a wall. Looking at her 
hand : " Who made that mark ? ... It hurts where the 
wall hit me." 

Dar (i ; 8 to 2 ; 5) bringing his toy motor to the window : 
" Motor see the snow." One evening a picture (of some 
people he knew) fell to the ground. Dar stood up in bed, 
crying and calling out : " The mummies (the ladies) all 
on the ground, hurt!" Dar was watching the grey clouds. 
He was told that it was going to rain : " Oh, look at the 
wind ! — Naughty wind, smack wind. — Do you think that 
would hurt the wind ? — Yes." A few days later : " Bad 
yi}ind. — No, not naughty — rain naughty. Wind good. — 
Why is the rain naughty ? — Because Mummy pushes the 
pram and the pram all wet." Dar couldn't go to sleep, so 
the light was left on at his demand : " Nice light " 
(gentille). On a morning in winter when the sun shone 
into the room : " Oh, good! the stm's come to make the 
radiator warm." 

These last remarks clearly show the child's tendency, 



THE ORIGINS OF CHILD ANIMISM 213 

noted by Sully, to regard natural objects as big children 
that are either good or naughty according to their activity. 

Each of these examples is obviously debatable. But 
the constancy of the style proves at any rate how httle 
these children are concerned to distinguish things from 
living beings. Anything that moves is described as if it 
were conscious and every event as if it were purposive. 
" The wall who hit me " thus signifies the child's tendency 
to regard all resistance as intentional. The difficulties 
involved in the direct analysis of such expressions are 
evident. Nevertheless, and this seems the most convincing 
argument, these expressions do really seem to arise from 
a latent animism since it is not until the ages of 5-7 that 
children start asking questions as to how far things are 
alive and conscious, while before this age they appear 
entirely untroubled by such questions as if their solution 
was too obvious to present any problem. 

To conclude, we noted two periods in the spontaneous 
animism of children. The first, lasting until the ages of 
4-5, is characterised by an animism which is both integral 
and implicit ; anything may be endowed with both 
purpose and conscious activity, according to the occasional 
effects on the child's mind of such occurrences as a stone 
which refuses to be thrown on to a bank, a wall which can 
hurt the hand, etc. But this animism sets no problem to 
the child. It is taken for granted. After the ages of 4-6. 
however, questions are asked on the subject, showing that 
this imphcit animism is about to disappear and con- 
sequently that an intellectual systematisation is about to 
take place. It is now that it becomes possible to question 
the child, and that the stages whose succession was 
studied in the two previous chapters are found for the 
first time. 

§ 2. The Sun and Moon follow us. — The animism 
which is shown in the questions and conversation of 
children of 5-7 has its origin essentially in the appearance 
of chance phenomena which the child cannot understand 
by reason of their unexpectedness. But the very fact 



214 CHILD'S CONCEPTION OF THE WORLD 

that these phenomena are the only ones to arouse his 
interest makes his S])ontaneou5 animism appear very 
Hmited. Such is not, however, the case. We shall show 
in the following section that he conceives the world as a 
society of beings obedient to moral and social laws. There 
is therefore no reason why he should ask many questions 
revealing animism ; in fact, as we have so often seen 
{Language and Thought, Chapter V), it is the exception 
which strikes him and which offers him a problem. 

If such is the case it ought to be possible to find animist 
behefs in the child, which are tacit but none the less 
systematic. This is what we shall now try to show by 
analy.sing a belief, the study of which will form a transition 
between the study of spontaneous animism and the 
analysis of the type of necessity which is attributed by 
children to natural laws. This belief is that, according 
to which the child regards itself as being constantly 
followed by the sun and the moon. So far as we can judge 
from the verv great number of children we have questioned 
at Geneva, Paris and elsewhere, this belief appears to be 
extremely general and also very spontaneous. It will also 
be remembered that Rasmussen's daughter at the age of 4 
and James's deaf-mute both showed it. Numerous spon- 
taneous instances of the idea have also already been found 
during the course of the questions on animism. The 
children whose answers are now given had not already 
been questioned on animism, but are new subjects, 
questioned specially concerning the sun and the stars, the 
causes of movement, etc. 

The technique to be followed, in order to eliminate the 
influence of suggestion is extremely simple. The child 
is questioned as follows : " When you go out for a walk, 
what does the sun do ? " If the child has the conviction 
that the sun follows him he will answer straightway " it 
follows us." If he has not this conviction, the question 
is too vague to contain any definite suggestion. The child 
will then answer : " it shines, it warms us, etc." The 
question may also be asked directly, " does the sun 



THE ORIGINS OF CHILD ANIMISM 215 

move ? " — and this will often be enough to start the child 
talking spontaneously. 

Three stages were observed. During the first, the child 
believes that the sun and moon follow him, just as a bird 
might above the roofs. This stage lasts, on an average, 
up to the age of 8, but examples are still found up to 12. 
During a second stage he admits at the same time both 
that the sun does and does not follow. He tries to avoid 
the contradiction so far as he can ; the sun does not 
move but its rays follow us, or the sun remains in the 
same place but turns so that it can always watch us, etc. 
The average age of these children is from 8 to 10. Finally, 
after lo-ii, on an average, the child knows that the sun 
and moon only appear to follow us, and that it is really 
an illusion due to their great distance. From the point 
of view of animism, which is all that interests us at 
present, the two first stages are animist, the third 
usually marks the disappearance of animism concerning 
the sun. During the first stage, the child completely 
and unreservedly endows both the sun and moon with 
consciousness and will. 

The following are examples of the first stage : — 

J AC (6) " Does the sun move ? (these words mark 
the beginning of the examination. — We had previously 
asked no question of Jac beyond his name and age). — Yes, 
ti'Jien one walks, it follows. When one turns round it turns 
round too. Doesn't it ever follow you too ? — Why does it 
move ? — Because when one walks, it goes too {it marche). 
— Why does it go ? — To hear what we say. — It is alive ? — 
Of course, otherwise it couldn't follow us, it couldn't shine." 
A moment later : " Does the moon move ? — Yes, when one 
walks too, more than the sun, because if you run the moon 
goes as fast as rmming, but when you run imth the sun it 
only goes as fast as walking {quand on court ellc court, et 
puis le soleil quand on court, il marche). Because tJie moon 
is stronger than the sun, it g'^cs faster. The sun can't ever 
catch it up (the illusion is in fact much clearer with the 
moon than the sun). — What happens when you don't 
walk ? — The moon stops. But when I stand still someone 
else starts running. — If you were to run and one of your 



2i6 CHILD'S CONCEPTION OF THE WORLD 

friends were to run in the opposite direction at the same 
time, what would happen ? — // would go with the other." 
At the end of the examination, which was then directed 
to the cause of movement in general, we asked : " What 
is making the sun move to-day ? — It isn't moving, because 
no one is walking. Oh, yes I It must be moving, because I 
can hear a cart." 

Bov (6 ; 5) : " When you are out for a walk what does 
the sun do ? — It comes with me. — And when you go home ? 
— It goes with someone else. — In the same direction as 
before ? — Or in the opposite direction. — Can it go in any 
direction ? — Yes. — Can it go wherever it likes ? — Yes. — 
And when two people go in opposite directions ? — There 
are lots of suns. — Have you seen the suns ? — Yes, the more 
I walk and the more I see, the more there are." A moment 
later : " Does the moon move ? — Yes, when I'm out of 
doors in the evening and I want to go on the lake, the moon 
comes with me. If I want to go in the boat, the moon comes 
with me too, like the sun, it comes as well if it is still there." 

Cam (6) said of the sun : "It comes with us to look at 
us. — Why does it look at us ? — It looks to see if we are 
good." The moon comes at night " because there are people 
who want to work. — Why does the moon move ? — It's 
time to go and work. Then the moon comes. — Why does' 
it move ? — Because it's going to work with the men who 
work. — Do you believe that ? — Yes. — That it works ? — 
// looks to see if they work properly." 

Hub (6^) : " What does the sun do when you are out 
for a walk ? — It moves. — How ?— 7^ goes with me. — Why ? 
— To make it light, so that you can see clearly .—Wov^ does 
it go with you ? — Because I look at it. — What makes it 
move when it goes with you ? — The wind. — Does the wind 
know where you are going ? — Yes. — When I go for a walk 
where does the sun go ? — It goes with you (we showed 
Hub two people walking in opposite directions). — You see, 
if you were to go that way and I this way, what would 
the sun do ? — The sun would go with you. — Why ? — 
With me . . . ." 

Jac (6i) : " What does the moon do when you are out 
for a walk ? — It goes with us [elle route avec nous). — Why ? 
— Because the wind makes it go. — Does the wind know 
where you are going ? — Y^s.— And the moon too ? — Yes. 
— Does it move on purpose to go out with you or because 
it has to go ? — It comes so as to give us light. — Where did 
you go for a walk ? — On the ' Plaine ' (a public walk). 



THE ORIGINS OF CHILD ANIMISM 217 

The moon went too (la lune elle roulait). — Did it see you ? 
— Yes. — Does it know when you go for a walk on the 
' Plaine ' ? — Yes. — Does it care ? — Yes, it does. — Does it 
know your name ? — No. — And mine ? — No. — Does it 
know there are houses ? — Yes. — Does it know I wear 
glasses ? — No." 

Sar (7) : " What does the sun do when you are out for 
your walk ? — // moves, when I don't move it doesn't move 
either. And the moon too. — And if you go backwards ? — 
It goes back." 

Kenn (7) : " You've seen the moon, haven't you ? — 
Yes. — What does it do ? — It follows us. — Does it follow 
us really and truly? — Yes. — But it doesn't move? — No. 
— Then it doesn't follow us really and truly ? — It follows 
us. — Why does it follow us ? — To show us the road. — Does 
it know the road ?^ — Yes. — WTiich roads ? — . . . — Does 
it know the (Geneva roads ? — Yes. — And the Saleve roads ? 
— No. — And the roads in France ? — No. — Then what 
about the people in France ? What does the moon do ? — 
It follows them. — Is the moon there as well ? — Yes. — Is it 
the same moon as here.- — No, another one." 

We have already given Giamb's answers at the age of 
7 concerning magic (Chapter IV, § 2). We were able to 
question him again at 8| : he still believed that the sun 
and moon followed him. " When you are out for a walk, 
what does the sun do ? — It follows us. — And the moon ? — 
Yes, like the sun. — If someone were to meet you, which 
would it follow 7— It would follow one until he went home 
and then it would follow the other." 

Blond (8) : The moon " goes with us\{avance avec nous) 
it follows us. — Does it really follow us or is it only as if it 
followed us ? — It really follows us." 

Sart (i2|) : " Can the moon do whatever it likes ? — 
Yes. When you are walking, it follows you. — Does it follow 
you or does it not really move ? — It follows me. It stops 
if I stop. — If I were to walk too, which of us would it 
follow ? — Me.— Which ? — You. — Do you think it follows 
everybody ? — Yes. — Can it be everywhere at the same 
time? . . ." 



The spontaneity of these answers is apparent. Counter- 
suggestion makes no difference. The question as to 
whether the sun and moon really follow us or only appear 
to do so is not understood. The question of the two 



2i8 CHILD'S CONCEPTION OF THE WORLD 

people walking in opposite directions puzzles the child but 
does not disillusion him. The following answers of the 
second and third stages show clearly enough by comparison 
how far the preceding answers really point to a fixed and 
systematic conviction. 

The following are examples of the second stage ; the 
sun and the moon follow us though without themselves 
moving : — 

Sart (ii ; 5) : " Does the moon move ? — Yes. — When 
you are out for a walk what happens ? — Yon see it moving 
forward all the time. — Does it follow us or not ? — It follows 
us because it's big. — Does it move (avance) or not ? — Yes. 
— When the moon follows us, does it move (bouge) or 
not ? . . . — I don't know." Sart obviously does not 
understand ; on the one hand he has the idea that the 
moon followed us and on the other the idea that it does 
not move and he is unable to make the synthesis. 

Lug (i2 ; 3) will not rest content hke Sart with two 
contradictory beliefs at the same time, but attempts 
to reconcile them : " What does the moon do when 
you are out walking ? — It follows us. — Why ? — Its rays 
follow MS.— Does it move ? — It moves, it follows us. — Then 
tell me . . . (example of the two people walking in opposite 
directions). — It stays still. It can't follow the two at the 
same time. — Has it ever happened to you that it couldn't 
follow you ? — Sometimes when one runs. — Why ? — One's 
going too fast. — Why does' it follow us ? — To see where we 
are going.— Cu.n it see us ? — Yes. — When there are lots of 
people in the town what does it do ? — It follows someone. — 
Which person 1— Several people. — How does it do that ? — 
With its rays. — Does it follow them really and truly ?• — 
You'd think it was us and you'd think it was the moon. — 
Does it move?— y^s, it moves. — What does it do? — It 
stays still and its ravs follow us (!) " 

Brul (8) : " What does the sun do when you are out 
for a walk ? — It follows us. — Why ? — To make it light for 
us. — Can it see us? — Yes. — Then it moves? — No, you'd 
think it did. — Then what does follow us ? — // follows us, 
but it stays in the same place (!) — How does it do that ?— 
When yoH arc walking if you turn round it still shines on 
your head. — How is that ? — When anyone looks at it tliey 
always see it sinning on them." Brul then explains that 
it " stays in the same place " but sends out " its rays." 



THE ORIGINS OF CHILD ANIMISM 219 

The substance of these beliefs is clear. The child still 
beheves that the sun follows us. But he has found out 
(as we shall see Mart find out as the result of an experi- 
ment) or has learned that the .sun does not move. He 
cannot understand how these two facts are possible at 
the same time. Therefore, Hke Sart, he admits the two 
contradictory statements without attempting to reconcile 
them ; in the same way we saw how Sart had learned 
that the sun and moon are " big," but that he had not 
understood the significance of this was clear from the 
conclusions he drew. Or else, hke Lug and Brul, the child 
tries to find a solution for himself, and maintains that the 
sun is stationary but that its rays follow us ! 

The following two cases are intermediary between the 
second and third stages : — 

Mart (9:5): " What does the moon do whilst you are 
walking }—It follows us and then it stays still. It's we that 
move and the moon gets nearer us all the time we're moving. 
— How does it follow us ? — It stays still and it's we who 
come nearer it.- — How did you find that out ? — When you 
pass in front of houses you don't see it any more, you only 
see the wall. — Then what did you decide ? — That it hadn't 
moved. — Why did you think it followed you ? — / made a 
mistake ; when there wasn't a house there it was all the time 
in front of me. — Why does it move ? — No one makes it 
move ! It's in the same place all the time." 

Falq (8) also says that the moon "follows us. — Why ? 
— Because it's high up and every one can see it. — If you and 
I were both walking but in opposite directions which of 
us would it follow ? — It would follow you because it's 
nearer you.- — Why ? — Because you're in front. — Why is it 
nearer ? — It always stays in the same place." 

Mart and Falq are still in the second stage in believing 
that we move nearer the moon when we walk and that 
the illusion has thus a real foundation. But they are 
already in the third stage in no longer maintaining that 
the moon changes place in any way (its rays no longer 
follow us). 

The following are examples of the third stage. The 
illusion is now completely understood : — 



220 CHILD'S CONCEPTION OF THE WORLD 

Pfx (7:3): " When you are out walking in the evening, 
does the moon move ? — It's far away and you'd say it was 
moving hut it's not really." 

KuF (10 ; 9) : " When you're walking you'd say that 
the moon was following you, because it is big. — Does it 
follow us ? — No. I used to believe it followed us and that 
it ran after us." 

Due (7I) : " What does the sun do when you are out 
for a walk ? — It shines. — Does it follow you ? — No, but 
you can see it everywhere. — Why ? — Because it is very big." 

The above answers show the development of the behef 
in the purposive movement of the sun and moon. Their 
perfect continuity and the richness of the detail in the 
accounts of even the youngest children show very clearly 
that we are dealing with a spontaneous belief, arising 
from direct observation and already formulated by the 
child before ever we questioned it. The generality of this 
spontaneous belief is interesting from three points of view. 

In the first place, the facts just stated show clearly 
enough the child's behef in animism and in an animism 
that is not very theoretical (its object is not to explain 
natural phenomena), but affective. The sun and moon 
take an interest in us : — 

" The sun sometimes watches us," says Fran (9), " when 
we're looking nice he looks at us.— Do you look nice ? — 
Yes, on Sundays, when I'm dressed like a man." " The 
moon looks at us and watches over us," says Ga (8^), 
" when I walk, it walks ; when I stand still it stands still. 
It copies like a parrot. — Why ? — It wants to do whatever I 
do. — Why ? — Because it's inquisitive." 

Pur (8 ; 8) : The sun moves " to hear what we're saying." 
J AC (6) : " It looks to see if we're being good," and the 
moon " watches to see that people are working properly 
(Cam, 6), etc. 

Secondly, these beliefs are extremely interesting from 
the light they throw on the relationship between magic 
and animism. The reader will remember that certain 
children (Chapter IV, § 2) beheve that they themselves 
cause the movement of the sun and moon : " It's me when 
I walk " (who makes them move), said Nain at 4 years old, 



THE ORIGINS OF CHILD ANIMISM 221 

" it's us," said Giamb at 7. The children we have just 
quoted have, on the contrary, the impression of being 
followed by spontaneous beings who could if they so 
wished go elsewhere. There is therefore magic or animism 
according as the causal emphasis is laid on the self or on 
the movement. How is this relationship to be regarded ? 
There is obviously in such a case complete mutual de- 
pendence between magic and animism. The starting 
point is a feeling of participation resulting from ego- 
centricity, that is to say from confusion between the self 
and the world ; the child, from always seeing the sun and 
moon either above or beside him, comes also to believe, 
by reason of the already formed affective associations 
which produce child egocentricity, that between the move- 
ments of the sun and moon and his own movements there 
is either dynamic participation or a common purpose. 
In so far as the child accepts and does not reflect on this 
common purpose and therefore does not question whether 
the sun and moon are capable of resisting this obligation 
to follow us, the attitude is one of magic : he has the 
impression that it is he himself who makes the sun and 
moon move. On the other hand, in so far as he is surprised 
at the obedience of the sun and moon and endows them 
with the power of resisting, he animates them in so doing 
and attributes to them the will and the desire to follow 
him. In short, between magic and animism there is only 
a difference in egocentricity. Absolute egocentricity 
implies magic ; the feeUng that other beings have an 
independent existence, on the contrary, weakens the 
primitive participations and emphasises the purposive 
character of these beings. 

Finally, the beliefs analysed in this section are of great 
importance to the understanding of the child's conception 
of dynamics, and we shall thus meet with them again in 
deahng with the explanation of natural movements. It 
is found in fact that children of the ages of j-% generally 
maintain that the movement of the sun and moon is due 
to the air, the wind, the clouds, etc. This seems to suggest 



222 CHILD'S CONCEPTION OF THE WORLD 

a mechanical explanation. But, at the same time, the 
sun and moon are thought to follow us. Thus added to 
the mechanical forces, there is a magico-animistic factor 
which points to the real significance of the child's 
mechanical conception — to say that the way the sun and 
moon foUow us is due to the wind, etc., amounts to the 
same as saying that the wind, the clouds, etc. are accom- 
phces, and are equally concerned with us and that all 
things gravitate around man. 

We are thus led to study the type of necessity the child 
attributes to natural laws. Having once examined this 
question we may then proceed directly to the problem of 
the origin of child animism. 

§ 3. Physical Determinism and Moral Necessity. 
— As we saw in Chapter V, there are two uses to which 
a child may put an animistic conception of nature. These 
are to explain the fortuitous and to explain the regularity 
of things. Now to explain away the chance occurrence 
means to exclude it and to seek to bring everything within 
definite laws. But what are these laws ? As Sully has 
shown and as we have ourselves been able to verify 
{Language and Thought, Chapter V) they are moral and 
social laws rather than physical laws. They are the 
decus est. The key to child animism is this, that natural 
beings are conscious according as they have a part to play 
in the economy of things. 

This characteristic explains both the role and the limits 
of child animism. We have already stated many times 
that the child is not so anthropomorphic as is usually 
supposed. He onlj' endows things with consciousness 
when it is strictly necessary in order that they may fulfil 
their respective functions. Thus a child of 7 will refuse 
to admit that the sun can see one in a room or that it 
knows one's name but wiU maintain that it can go with 
us when we are walking because it has to accompany us 
" to make us warm," etc. The water in a river cannot 
see its banks, it knows nothing of pleasure or pain ; but 
it knows that it is moving and it knows when it needs to 



THE ORIGINS OF CHILD ANIMISM 223 

get up speed in order to overcome some obstacle. For the 
river moves " so as to give us water," etc. 

The following conversation is ^significant in this 
respect : — 

Vern (6) a child we have never questioned on animism 
and whom we now saw for the first time. We asked him 
why a boat floats on the water whilst a little stone, which 
is lighter, sinks immediately.. Vern reflected and then 
said : " The boat is more inteUigait than the stone. — What 
does ' to be intelligent ' mean ? — It doesn't do things it 
ought not to do." — (Note the confusion between the moral 
and the phy.sical). " And is the table intelligent ? — // is 
cut ( =it is made of wood that has been cut), it can't talk, 
it can't say anything. — And is the sun intelligent }—Yes, 
because it wants to make things icarm.— And the house ? — 
No, because it's made of stone. The stones are all shut up 
{fermees) (meaning that they neither speak nor see, but 
are material). — Are clouds intelligent ? — No, because they 
try to fight the sun (they do the opposite to the sun). — 
Is the moon intelligent ? — Yes, because it shines at night. 
It lights the streets, and hunters too I think in the forests. — 
Is the water in streams intelligent ? — It is rather good too 
[elle est aussi un peu gentUle)." 

These remarks are certainly interesting. In analysing 
the classification one is inevitably reminded of what 
Aristotle termed " nature " and what he called " violence." 
For Vern, the heat of the sun is " natural " since the sun 
is guided by an internal force towards an end that is 
useful to hfe, whilst the movements of the clouds are 
" violent " since they counteract the sun. And further, 
if one may be allowed to press the parallel, it should be 
observed that Vern regards natural activity as " intelli- 
gent," that is to say compelled not by physical " necessity " 
(" necessity " being an obstacle to the activity of 
" nature "), but by moral obhgation — not to do " things 
it ought not to do." 

These answers, therefore, confront us with the problem 
inevitable to the study of child animism — as to what 
" nature " means to the child. Is it a collection of physical 
laws ? Or a well-regulated society ? Or a compromise 



224 CHILD'S CONCEPTION OF THE WORLD 

between the two ? This is what must now be considered. 
We shall work on the hypothesis, based on the facts 
collected in the previous chapters, that the child endows 
things with consciousness principally in order to explain 
their obedience to a hierarchy. It credits things with a 
moral nature rather than with a psychology. 

How can this hypothesis be verified ? The whole study 
of the child's ideas of dynamics and physics which we 
have attempted elsewhere, urges us to adopt it. But, in 
the meanwhile we can simply ask children whether things 
do what they want and if not, why not. 

This procedure furnished us with very clear results. 
Up to the ages of 7-8, children refused to admit that things 
could act as they wanted, not because they lacked the 
will to do so, but because their will is compelled by a 
moral law, whose purpose is to regulate everything towards 
the greatest good of man. The few exceptions we found 
certainly confirm this interpretation ; when a child of 
this age regards a certain object as lacking in all moral 
obligation, he regards it therefore as free to act as it 
wishes and free because no one is compelling it. Will is 
thus present in things, but in the great majority of cases 
this will is controlled by duty. 

At the ages of about 7-8 on the other hand the first 
notions of physical determination are to be found ; certain 
movements, such as the motion of the clouds or of rivers 
are explained more and more as due, no longer to a moral 
obhgation, nor to a constraint of a moral law but to a 
purely physical constraint. This new idea is however 
slow to become systematised, it is only applied to certain 
phenomena and it is only at about the ages of 11-12 
that it can definitely take the place of the idea of a moral 
law in the child's scheme of physics. Thus between the 
ages of 7-8 and 11-12 we shall find various combinations 
of moral necessity and physical determinism without its 
being possible to subdivide this period strictly into stages. 
Finally, it should be noticed that before the ages of y-8, 
there is already an element of physical compulsion 



THE ORIGINS OF CHILD ANIMISM 225 

naturally present in the child's conception of the world, 
but this compulsion is still very different from the deter- 
minism which appears after the ages of 7-8 ; it consists 
rather in what might be called the material compulsion 
which necessarily accompanies moral necessity in the 
child's eyes. 

We shall now quote some examples taken at random, 
showing in each case the pari: played by moral necessity 
and physical determinism respectively : — 

Reyb (8 ; 7) : " Can the clouds do as they like ? — No. — 
Can they move more quickly if they want to ? — No. — 
Can they stop if they want to ? — No. — Why not ? — 
Because they're moving all the time. — Why ? — So as to show 
it's going to rain {Parce que pour annoncer la pluie) ." " Can 
the sun do what it hkes ? — Yes. — Can it stop moving if it 
wants to ? — No, because if it were to stop it wouldn't 
shine. — Can the moon do what it wants ? — No. — Can 
it stay still if it wants to ? — Yes. — Why ? — Because if 
it wants to it can stop moving. — Can it set (aller se 
coucher) when it wants to ? — No, because it shines at 
night." If the above remarks of Reyb are compared 
with the following it will be seen that the regularity of 
the movements of the clouds, the sun arid the moon 
is explained by their function, whilst that of rivers is 
explained by determinism : " Can rivers do as they 
Hke ? — No. — Why not ? — Because they're flowing all the 
time. — Why ? — Because they can't stop. — Why not ? — 
Because they're flowing all the time. — Why ? — Because the 
wind is driving them. It makes the waves come and makes 
them flow." 

ZiM (8 ; i) supposes that the moon can do as it hkes. 
But there are limits to its powers : " Can it not come in 
the evening if it doesn't want to ? — No. — Why not ? — 
Because it's not it who gives the orders (!) " The sun can do 
as it hkes, but this amounts to the same thing : "It 
knows it's behind tl\e mountain ? — Yes. — Did it want to 
go there or did it have to ? — // wanted to. — Why ? — So as 
to make it good weather {parce que pour que (a fasse beau 
temps)." 

Rat (8 ; 10) : " Can the clouds go faster if they want 
to ? — Yes. — Why ? — Because they go by themselves. — Can 
they go away when they want to ? — Yes. — Could they go 
to-day when it's raining ? — Yes. — Then why don't they ? 



226 CHILD'S CONCEPTION OF THE WORLD 

— Because they don't. — Why not ? — Because it's raining. — 
Is it they who wanted it to rain ? — No. — What then ? — 
God. — Could the sun stop shining if it wanted to }-Yes. 
— Could it come in the middle of the night if it wanted 
to ? — It wouldn't want to. It's night-time, time to go to 
bed. — Could it if it wanted to ? — Yes. — Has it ever done 
so ? — No. — Why not ? — It likes to go to bed better. — You 
really beheve that ? — Yes. — Why doesn't it come in 
the middle of the night ?— // can't.— Why not ? — // it 
doesn't come it isn't light. If it comes it's light. — Then why 
doesn't it come and make it light at night ? — The moon 
makes it a bit light. — Can't the sun come too ? — It doesn't 
want to. — Could it come }—Yes. — Then why doesn't it ? 
— People would think it was morning. — Why doesn't it let 
them ? — It doesn't want to." The moon obeys for similar 
reasons : " Could the moon stop in the middle of the 
night if it wanted to ? — No, because it has to shine a bit 
longer." 

Ross (9 ; 9) : " Can the sun do what it likes ? — Yes. — 
Can it go quicker if it wants to ? — Yes. — Can it stop ? — 
No. — Why not ? — Because it has to shine for some time. — 
Why ? — To ivarm us." 

Imh (6) : " Can the clouds do what they like ? — No, 
because all they do is to show us the way." We here find the 
clouds charged with the necessity of following us which 
other children attribute only to the sun and moon. This 
reply is all the more significant since Imh is well aware of 
the part played by determinism in what concerns streams ; 
for example : " Can the water in the streams do what it 
likes ? — No, it can flow faster , but only when it slopes." 

JuiLL (7^) : " Can the sun do what it likes ? — Yes. — 
Can it go away in the middle of the day ? — No. — Why 
not ? — Because it's already light. — And so ? — // can't. — 
Can it go at 12 o'clock ? — No. — Why not ? — Because it's 
already day-time. — What makes it day-time ? -God. — 
Could he make it day without the sun ? — Yes. — Must the 
sun be there when it's day ? — Yes, or else it would rain." 

SCHI (6) : " Could the sun go away at 12 o'clock if it 
wanted to ? — No. — Why not ?- Because it has to shine the 
whole day." 

Kent {9 ; 3) : The sun cannot do as it likes " because 
it has to go and make it day where it goes every day." The 
law of its movement is thus a moral law. So too with the 
clouds and the wind : " They always have to go to the same 
place." The stars "have to go at night where they were 



THE ORIGINS OF CHILD ANIMISM 227 

the other night." The streams " have always to go where 
there's a path in front of them." 

The following two cases are exceptions ; the first is 
that of a child who endows all objects with freedom of 
movement for the reason that they are " alone," that is 
to say that no one commands them nor supervises what 
they do. 

Had (6) : " Can the sun do whatever it hkes ? — Yes, 
because it's alone with the moon. — And the clouds ? — Yes, 
because they are alone with the other clouds," etc. The 
meaning of these words is sufficiently clear from the 
following answer : " Can you do whatever you Uke ? — Yes, 
because my mother sometimes lets me." 

The exception is thus only apparent. Again a child may 
attribute freedom to all objects, but at the same time 
credits them with " good will " (bonne volonte) which 
again makes the answers only an apparent exception to 
the preceding ones : — 

Mont (7) : " Can the sun do whatever it hkes ? — Yes. 
— Can it stop giving light ? — Yes. — Then why doesn't it ? 
— It wants it to be fine weather. — Can streams do as they 
Hke ? — Yes. — Could they go faster if they wanted to ? — 
Yes. — Could the Rhone stop flowing ? — Yes. — And why 
doesn't it ? — It wants there to be water," etc. 

Finally, it should be noted that will is the most per- 
sistent form of the animistic powers which the child 
attributes to things. In fact, children are found at the 
ages of 10-12 who no longer ascribe consciousness or life 
to nature yet still endow it with will and effort, 

KuF (10 ; i) : " Are streams alive ? — No. — Do they 
know they are moving ? — No. — Can they want things ? — 
No. — Can they want to go faster ? — Yes. — And the same 
with the sun ? Would the sun like to go faster some- 
times ? — Yes. — Does it feel that it would like to go faster ? 
— No." And for Kuf the sun can actually go faster or 
slower according as it wants to. 

The importance of these facts for the evolution of the 
concept of " force " is unmistakably clear. This con- 



228 CHILD'S CONCEPTION OF THE WORLD 

tinuity established between force and animism by reason 
of the concept of an " unconscious will " should be noted. 
The question will be taken up later. 

For the present we may conclude that the child is led 
to explain the uniformity of nature by moral much rather 
than by natural laws. Things are endowed with a will 
which they make use of to suit their pleasure and nothing 
is impossible to them. On the one hand, they are concerned 
with us, and their will is above all a good will, that is to 
say a will aiming at man's good. On the other hand, 
however, there are certain Hmitations. Natural objects 
are not sovereign forces : " It's not itself that gives the 
orders," said Zim, speaking of the moon. It is true that 
after the ages of 7-8 certain movements, such as those of 
streams or of clouds, are explained, more and more as due 
to a physical determinism. But until about the ages of 
11-12, there remain a great number of objects, particularly 
the sun, the moon and the wind, which still obey the 
primitive moral laws. 

It would be interesting to determine at each age the 
exact proportion of explanations due to moral necessity 
and physical determinism respectively. But the most 
fruitful method of attaining this is not the one we have 
used, but one less verbal and artificial, which consists in 
making the child explain the reason for each natural 
movement and phenomenon. We shall attempt it later. 
The foregoing must therefore be regarded as a simple 
introduction to the child's dynamics, intended above all 
to determine the meaning of child animism and to show 
the contact between this animism and the vaster pro- 
blems involved in conceptions of movement. 

§ 4. Conclusions. The Significance of the 
Questions on Child Animism, and the Nature of 
" Diffuse Animism." — The results obtained by means of 
the various procedures described in Chapters V and VI 
must be interpreted with the greatest caution. They have 
in fact a common fault ; their dependence on words. The 
children's answers were not concerned with concrete 



THE ORIGINS OF CHILD ANIMISM 229 

objects which were handled so as to make them understand 
their mechanism but with things about which we had 
merely spoken. What we obtained is therefore not ani- 
mism as it actually functions but the definition of the words 
"hving," "knowing," "feeling," etc. These definitions 
certainly contained constant elements and if our ambition 
were hmited to the study of verbal inteUigence we could 
treat the results with confidence. But how far can they 
throw hght on the question of intelligence in perception ? 

To make this matter clear we must retain only what 
may be called the negative element in the answers and 
not the positive content of each statement. From this 
point of view two conclusions may be noted. 

The first is that the child's thought begins with a lack 
of differentiation between living and inert bodies since 
it possesses no criterion by which to make the distinction. 
For us, or rather for adult common sense, two types of 
criterion aid this distinction. First, the fact that hving 
bodies are bom, grow and die. But curiously enough 
none of the children we tested ever invoked this criterion. 
Sometimes, indeed, the child told us that plants " grow " 
(poussent) but this was for him a way of regarding them 
as endowed with spontaneous movement, and the move- 
ment of growth was thus conceived as of the same order 
as the movement of the clouds or of the sun. Moreover, 
we shall see in studying child artificiahsm that to a child 
almost all bodies are bom and grow ; the sun and moon 
" are bom and grow (poussent)," mountains, stones, iron 
" grow " etc. The facts clearly prove that the origin and 
growth of things cannot serve the child as criteria for 
distinguishing the hving from the inert. From this point 
of view there is perfect continuity between all natural 
objects. 

In the second place, in distinguishing hving from 
inorganic matter, adult common sense also makes use 
of the principle of inertia, which, since the development 
of industry, has become more and more one of our intellec- 
tual habits. An inaminate body only moves in response 



230 CHILD'S CONCEPTION OF THE WORLD 

to an external influence, whereas, as common sense asserts, 
a living being creates movements. But this distinction 
is obviously of recent date, and it is therefore no wonder 
that the children we found in the third stage, those pre- 
cisely who define life in terms of spontaneous movement, 
were still unable to form a distinction between the 
apparently spontaneous movement of the sun, the moon, 
the wind, etc., and the movements of animals. 

In short, however cautiously one proceeds and whatever 
pains one takes to avoid interpreting the children's 
answers too literally, it remains an undoubted fact that 
child thought starts with the idea of a universal life as 
its primary assumption. From this point of view, animism 
is in no sense the product of a structure built up by the 
child's reflection but is a primitive principle and it is only 
by a series of progressive differentiations that inert matter 
comes to be distinguished from that which is living. In 
this light, activity and passivity, spontaneous and 
acquired movement, are bracketed ideas that become 
gradually detached by thought from the primitive 
continuum in which all is regarded as living. 

The second conclusion is that if the living and the inert 
are undifferentiated in the primitive state the same is 
true a fortiori for conscious action and unconscious move- 
ment, or let us rather say for purposive actions and 
mechanical movements. It may be questioned whether 
the children's statements concerning the consciousness of 
things were reflective, but it must in any case be admitted 
that the distinction between purposive actions and 
mechanical movements is not only not innate but supposes 
an already very developed state of mind. No positive 
experience can in fact compel a mind to admit that 
things work neitlier lor n(^r at^ainst us and that chance 
and inertia alone count in nature. To arrive at such an 
objective view of things the mind must free itself from 
subjectivity and abandon its innate egocentricity. We 
have already shown what difficulties such an operation 
involves for the child. 



THE ORIGINS OF CHILD ANIMISM 231 

In short, in so far as it is led to endow things with 
consciousness, child animism is not the result of a structure 
built up by reflection but results from the primitive 
property of mind which consists in the complete lack of 
differentiation between conscious action and mechanical 
movement. Child animism presupposes a primitive state 
of belief in a continuum of consciousness. Or rather it is not 
.strictly either knowing or feeling that the child attributes 
to things but a sort of elementary awareness and will, 
the minimum necessary to accomplish the functions 
required by nature. This attributing of will and aware- 
ness does not mean that the child regards things as 
persons — actually, his sense of personality is much less 
strong than ours — but simply that he confuses purpose 
and activity. There is a Jewish story that tells how two 
dull-witted fellows were once having a dispute as to when 
water boils. One maintained that it boils at 100''. " But," 
objected the other, " how does it know it's reached 100° ? " 
This story illustrates the true meaning of child animism ; 
namely in so far as things show an activity which is 
reliable in its constancy and utiUty to man, they must 
possess a psychic hfe. 

Reduced to its just proportions, child animism thus 
becomes dependent on a number of fundamental peculiar- 
ities of child thought whirh makes it more acceptable in 
the eyes of the ps3'chologists than if it bore the appearance 
of a disinterested and merely theoretical systematisation. 
Three considerable groups of phenomena point, in fact, 
to the universal purposiveness which children attribute 
to objects. 

Firstly, there is the child's finalistic attitude, the re- 
markable prevalence of which is well known. In con- 
sidering the first stage in the evolution of the notion of 
life (§ i) we noted the definition of objects according 
to their utility, characteristic of the child's mentality 
between the ages of 3 and 8. As to mechanical move- 
ments, the research described in § 3 sufficiently showed 
that natural laws are interpreted by finalism. Our 



232 CHILD'S CONCEPTION OF THE WORLD 

further researches will show that this finalism colours 
the whole of their physics — the buoyancy of bodies, the 
movement of the air in a pump, the function of fire and 
of steam in an engine, etc. This tendency clearly shows 
to what an extent the child's universe is governed by ideas 
of purpose, both in its broad aspects and in its smallest 
details. 

A second group of facts pointing to the same conclusions 
is furnished by the evolution of questions between the 
ages of 3 and 7. As has already been shown {Language 
and Thought, Chapter V) these " Whys " are not strictly 
either causal or finahstic. They lie between the two, 
which means that the real cause that the child tries to 
connect with the phenomenon is precisely a purpose, 
which is at the same time both the efficient cause and the 
justification of the effect with which he is concerned. In 
other words, the purpose is creative, the physical cause 
and the logico-moral reason are still confused in a sort of 
universal psychological motive impulse. 

This is the explanation — which brings us to the third 
group of phenomena — of why the child starts by confusing 
physical necessity and moral necessity. If the facts 
quoted in the preceding section, and which will be con- 
stantly cropping up again in a much more spontaneous 
form, cannot be regarded as the proof of a systematic and 
exphcit animism they are at any rate a clear indication 
in favour of supposing that the child attributes to nature 
a uni^•ersal purpose (see Causalite Physique). 

It may be claimed, it» is true, that the three groups of 
facts just drawn on do not prove that a child locates the 
purpose he imagines in connection with a thing, within 
the thing itself. Such a purpose may equally belong to 
the creator or creators such as the men (" Messieurs ") by 
whom everything has been made. The following chapters 
will show precisely that such a child artificialism exists 
and that it is as systematic as animism and supposes nature 
to have been " created " (" fabriquee ") by men. But the 
problem is to determine whether the child begins by con- 



THE ORIGINS OF CHILD ANIMISM 233 

ceiving things as created by man and only then seeks for 
the purpose which may underlie individual things or 
whether on the contrary he is not first led to seek a purpose 
in all things and only then to classify these purposes as 
belonging to the creator (artificialism) or belonging to 
the things themselves (animism). Now we know that the 
" why," whose appearance coincides exactly with the need 
to seek for a purpose in everything, begins to arise between 
the ages of 2 and 3, that is to say at a time when artificial- 
ism is evidently not yet much systematised. The most 
probable course of the child's mind is, therefore, that which 
lies in first seeking for purposes and not till then classifying 
the subjects to which the purposes are related. So that 
the three groups of facts summoned to support animism, 
or the attribution of purpose to things, as it might be 
called in the terms of the present thesis, point to arti- 
ficialism as much as to animism. 

Moreover, it will be shown that at first no such conflict 
exists between animism and artificialism as might have 
been supposed ; that the child regards a body, such as the 
sun for example, as having been made by man is no 
reason why he should not regard it also as living, and 
living in the same way as a child born to its parents. 

In conclusion then, the structure of child animism or 
rather of its diffuse animism, in opposition to the more 
systematic beliefs regarding the sun, moon, etc. (§ 2) may 
be characterised as follows. 

Nature presents a continuum of life, such that every 
object possesses activity and awareness in some degree. 
This continuum is a network of purposive movements, 
more or less mutually dependent on one another and all 
tending towards the good of humanity. Gradually the 
child picks out certain centres of force within this 
continuum as being animated by a more spontaneous 
activity than the rest. But the choice of these centres 
does not become fixed for a long while. For example, the 
child first attributes autonomous activity to his own 
person, which has the power of making the sun and the 



234 CHILD'S CONCEPTION OF THE WORLD 

clouds advance, then to the sun and clouds themselves, 
wliich move of their own accord, then to the wind which 
causes the sun and the clouds to move, etc. The centre 
of force is thus -gradually shifted. This is what explains 
the vague and unsystematic character of the answers 
obtained. But although the choice of centres may be 
undecided the reasons which determine it need not be. 
Activity in general, movement in general, spontaneous 
movement opposed to imparted movement : these were 
the three themes that we found continually recurring in 
the minds of the children tested, introducing a progressive 
differentiation within the primitive continuum of life and 
purpose. 

§ 5. Conclusions {continued) : the Origins of Child 
Animism. — Ribot has remarked that ^ : "In consequence 
of a well-known though inexplicable instinctive tendency, 
man attributes purposes, will and causality similar to 
his own to all that acts and reacts around him, to his 
fellow-men, to living beings and to those things whose 
movements make them appear as if alive (clouds, rivers, 
etc.) " This phenomenon may be seen " amongst children, 
savages, animals (such as the dog who bites the stone 
that hits him) ; even the reflective man, returning for the 
moment to his instinctive state, loses his temper with 
the table into which he bumps." Freud ^ explains animism 
as due to a " projection " of which he speaks thus : " To 
project internal perceptions outside is a primitive mechan- 
ism, which our sensory perceptions for example undergo 
in the same way, and which consequently plays a principal 
part in our representation of the external world." Are 
this " inexplicable tendency " of Ribot and this " primitive 
mechanism " of Freud really inexplicable ? Or is the 
problem only insoluble because badly stated, and this 
because certain implicit postulates concerning the limits 
between the self and the external world alone make 
" projection " of the internal contents necessary ? 

* L'dvDlulion drs idics ginirales. 4th edition, p. 206. 

* Totem and Taboo. 



THE ORIGINS OF CHILD ANIMISM 235 

Indeed, for a certain school of psychology, consciousness 
of self is due above all to the direct sensation of something 
internal : for Maine de Biran, the feehng of effort ; for 
Ribot, the sum of the kinfesthetic sensations, etc. Thus 
the consciousness of self is developed independently of 
consciousness of the external world. And so in order to 
explain that thought endows objects with Hfe, purpose, 
forces, it is necessary to speak of " projection." Stated 
in these terms the question certainly becomes insoluble. 
Why should one project rather than see things as they 
are ? And if one is but the victim of a deceptive analogy 
between things and the self, why is this analogy so firmly 
fixed that neither experience nor time can undeceive a 
mind thus inclined ? 

Let us rather return to the hypothesis to which the 
study of the relations between the self and the external 
world led us. Going back to the starting point in the life 
of thought we find a protoplasmic consciousness unable 
to make any distinction between the self and things. In 
the formation of this consciousness two types of factors 
combine. First come tlie biological or individual factors 
which control the relations between the organism and its 
environment. According to all the evidence it is impossible 
in any biological reaction whatsoever to separate the 
organism from its environment. The intellectual adapta- 
tion and the motor adaptation from which the former is 
derived are no exception to this rule. Reality is a complex 
system of exchanges and complementary currents, tiie 
first determined by the assimilation of things to the 
organism and the second by the adaptation of the organism 
to the facts of the environment. The most substantial 
part of Bergson's Matter and Memory is where he demon- 
strates that perception is situated in the object as much 
as in the brain, since there is a perfect continuity between 
the impulse in the brain and the movements of the object. 
There is thus in the beginning neither self nor external 
world but a continuum. The social factors also tend to 
the same result ; from its earliest activities the baby is 



236 CHILD'S CONCEPTION OF THE WORLD 

brought up in a social atmosphere, in the sense that its 
parents, especially the mother, intervene in all its pctions 
(feeding, suckling, gripping objects, language) and in all 
its affections. Thus according to this point of view every 
action is part of a context, so that the consciousness of 
self does not accompany the child's early movements in 
any innate manner but is only gradually revealed as a 
function of the contacts experienced with the behaviour 
of others. Thus both the social and the biological factors 
combine at the beginning of the mental life to ensure an 
absence of differentiation between the world and the self, 
whence arise the feeUngs of participation and the magical 
mentality which results. 

If such is the starting point for the child's consciousness 
it is easier to reaUse the origins of animism. Four groups 
of causes, in fact, meet in the genesis of animism ; two 
belong to the individual and two to the social order. 

Those belonging to the individual order are as follows : 
First, there is indissociation of the contents of the primitive 
consciousness ; for, since ideas of action and of purpose, 
•etc. are necessarily bound together until the progressive 
dissociation of its ideas leads the child to distinguish 
purposive from non-purposive actions, the world is 
regarded by the primitive consciousness as a continuous 
whole that is both psychical and physical at the same 
time. Secondly, there is introjection according to which 
the child endows objects with feelings equivalent to those 
he himself experiences in hke circumstances. 

Before proceeding to analyse these two factors a dis- 
tinction must be made between two types of animistic 
tendency found among the children tested. We shall give 
the name of diffuse animism to the general tendency of 
children to confuse the Uving and the inert, that is to say 
the condition described in the preceding section (§ 4). 
We shall describe as systematic animism the sum total of 
the explicit animistic beUefs held by the child and of 
which the clearest is that according to which it beHeves 
that the sun and moon follow him (§ 2). We shall show 



THE ORIGINS OF CHILD ANIMISM 237 

that, broadly speaking, diffuse animism is explained by 
indissociation, rather than by introjection which accounts 
more for systematic animism. But it goes without saying 
that such a schema is too simple and must be comphcated 
by numerous qualifications. 

Having said this, we shall now attempt to formulate 
the role played by indissociation. The study of child 
reahsm (Chapters I-IV) showed that certain elements, 
one subjective and the other objective, cannot be dis- 
sociated in the child's thought, although to us they appear 
independent. So far, these are names and the things 
named, thought and the things thought of, etc. But the 
same holds true concerning movement and life ; all 
external movement is regarded as necessarily purposive. 
So too for activity in general and consciousness ; all 
activity is regarded as necessarily conscious. So too, at 
least in the primitive state, are being and knowing ; every 
object is regarded as knowing what it is, where it is and 
what attributes it possesses, etc. In short, the facts of 
child reahsm show that the mind proceeds from indis- 
sociation to dissociation and that mental development 
does not in any sense consist in successive associations. 
Diffuse animism is thus a primary datum in the child's 
consciousness. 

It is true that there exists the following difference 
between realism strictly speaking (such as nominal realism, 
etc.) and the indissociation from which animism arises. 
Realism constitutes what is, so to speak, a primary 
indissociation ; that is one which consists simply in 
situating in things characteristics which belong in truth 
to mind, but which the mind does not yet reahse as 
belonging to it (names, for example). The indissociation 
which characterises animism is on the contrary a secondary 
indissociation, which consists in attributing to things, 
characteristics similar to those which the mind attributes 
to itself — such as consciousness, will, etc. Is this a case 
of projection ? Certainly not. That which secondary 
indissociation adds to primary indissociation is simply the 



238 CHILD'S CONCEPTION OF THE WORLD 

unifying element in the idea of a particular object ; that 
is, it associates groups of qualities into individual entities 
rather than attributing them to reality at large. But it 
is the distinguishing mark of the realist mind — and herein 
lies the indissociation — to arrive at the idea of an object 
by making use of notions and categories which combine 
an objective term with the subjective term and which 
regard them as necessarily indissociable ; thus instead of 
thinking of the sun as an object which shines, is hot and is 
endowed with movement, the realist mind thinks of it as 
an object that knows it shines, that intentionally makes 
us warm and that moves according to the needs of its 
own life. 

The fundamental postulate in all the answers obtained 
concerning the endowment of consciousness to objects and 
the concept of " hfe " is, in fact, the imphcit assumption 
that all activity is conscious and all movement spon- 
taneous. When Schi maintains that the clouds know they 
are moving " because it is they that make the wind," when 
Ross says the wind is conscious " because it is it that blows," 
etc., there is an implicit identification between " doing " 
and " knowing what one does." There is animism through 
lack of dissociation. 

Why, however, is this indissociation of ideas so per- 
sistent ? We need only note in what manner dissociation 
works to realise that its operation is neither simple nor 
spontaneous. No direct experiment can possibly lead the 
child to the discovery that a movement is not purposive 
or that an activity is not conscious. The power of dis- 
sociating does not arise from a wider knowledge nor 
from a developed abihty to control circumstances nor 
from experimentation but from a radical change in the 
habits of mind. Only a quahtative development of the 
child's mind can lead it to abandon animism. 

What is the explanation of this change in the child's 
trend of mind ? The dissociation of ideas can only result 
from his becoming progressively aware of his self and his 
own thought. As regards the realism involved in names, 



THE ORIGINS OF CHILD ANIMISM 239 

etc., we have already tried to show that it is the discovery 
of the symbolic and therefore human quality of names 
which leads the child, first to dissociate the sign from the 
thing signified, then to distinguish internal from external, 
and then finally to differentiate the psychic from the 
physical. The progressive diminution of his animistic 
behefs follows a similar course. According as the child 
becomes clearly aware of personality in himself he refuses 
to allow a personality to things. According as he realises 
his own subjective activity and its inexhaustible scope he 
refuses to allow self-consciousness to things. Tylor has 
maintained with regard to savages, that it is the discovery 
of the existence of thought that brings animism into being. 
Far from its being so with children, it is ignorance of the 
psychic which makes them attribute life to things and it 
is the realisation of the fact of a thinking subject which 
leads them to abandon animism. In short the dissocia- 
tion of ideas arises from the growth of the consciousness of 
self. 

This interpretation can be justified by facts which are 
not limited to those we collected on the subject of child 
realism. As late as the age of 11-12 a phenomenon is still 
to be found which suggests what has probably been 
taking place during earher years ; this is the difhculty 
experienced in imagining that one can have the slightest 
illusion concerning one's own self. The fact is that the 
less a mind is given to introspection the more it is the 
victim of the illusion that it knows itself perfectly. The 
following cases illustrate this ; — 

Among the nonsense sentences proposed by Ballard as 
tests ^ is one phrased as follows : "I am not proud, since 
I don't think myself half as clever as I am in reahty." 
We submitted this sentence to a number of particularly 
inteUigent children between the ages of 11 and 13. The 
answer, where the children had understood the proposition, 
was always the same, namely, that the absurdity lies in 
your supposing yourself less clever than you really are. 

^ See Brtt. Journal of Psychology, October 1921. 



240 CHILD'S CONCEPTION OF THE WORLD 

If you are clever, the child argues, you know you are ; if 
you think yourself only half as clever as you really are it 
is because you are only half as clever, etc. You know 
what you are, you must know yourself, etc. The point of 
all these answers is, in short, the impossibility of having 
any illusions respecting one's self. 

The above may be an indication only, but it is significant. 
We all know that we have illusions concerning ourselves 
and that knowledge of one's self is the hardest of all 
knowledge. Of this, a mind uncultivated, Uke the child's, 
knows nothing. It thinks it knows itself and it beHeves 
this exactly in proportion to how little it does know itself. 
But, if this is so at the ages of ii and 12, one can imagine 
what the consciousness of self must be in the first years — 
the child must suppose he is aware of everything that 
happens to him, and inversely he can have no idea of any 
unconscious or involuntary action whatsoever. It is only 
by a series of experiences of a social or inter-individual 
type, causing him to reahse that other people's behaviour 
is not always necessarily intelligent or even intentional, and 
that one may oneself act under the sway of strange illusions, 
that the mind forms such improbable conceptions as move- 
ment without consciousness or existence without awareness. 
Naturally, we are not suggesting that the disappearance of 
animism is necessarily connected with the advent of the 
idea that there are psychologically unconscious states. We 
simply maintain that the dissociation of the primitive 
semi-psychic, semi-physical ideas, in other words the 
" depersonaUsation " of reahty is bound up with the 
growth of self-consciousness. So long as the child knows 
nothing of introspection, he supposes he knows himself 
perfectly and beUeves other things to be conscious of 
themselves. Inversely, according as the child comes to 
realise his self he builds up a whole scale of differing tpyes 
of action, from voluntary and reflective action to involun- 
tary and unconscious action. 

In short, animism, or at any rate diffuse animism, 
results from the indissociation of primitive ideas and only 



THE ORIGINS OF CHILD ANIMISM 241 

the growth of the knowledge of the self (resulting from 
social intercourse and comparisons with others) can enable 
these ideas to become dissociated. But to explain 
animism thus, seems nothing more than to substitute bare 
assertion for the idea of " projection," an idea which at 
least provides something resembUng an explanation. And 
so long as psychology is isolated from biology and the 
world is postulated as independent of the mind which 
adapts itself to it, this is obviously true. But if we wiU 
only seek in biology the roots of mental operations 
and give thought its true context by starting from the 
relation of the organism to its environment, we shall 
see that the obscure notion of " projection," that is 
to say of the transposition of the internal contents 
of consciousness into the external world, arises from 
the illegitimate and ontological use of the ideas of 
" internal " and " external." The biological reahty is 
the assimilation of the environment by the organism 
and the transformation of the organism into a function 
of the environment. It is a continuity of exchanges. 
These exchanges naturally suppose an internal and an 
external pole but each term is in a relation of con- 
stant equihbrium and natural dependence on the other. 
Such is the reahty from which the intelligence gradually 
extracts the ideas of a self and an external world. To 
say that at the beginning the self and the world are con- 
fused is to replace the inexpUcable " projection " of the 
self into things by the idea of assimilation of 'the external 
world by the self, an assimilation which is undoubtedly 
continuous with the biological assimilation itself. The 
remainder of oui research and in particular the inquiry 
into the origins of the idea of force (see Causalitd Physique) 
are aimed at developing the implications of this idea, so 
that it is unnecessary to pursue it further at the moment. 
But the indissociation of ideas can account only for 
diffuse animism. Certain systematic convictions such as 
that according to which the clouds and the sun foUow us 
and are concerned with our doings, etc., seem to imply the 



242 CHILD'S CONCEPTION OF THE WORLD 

intervention of other factors. It is here that we need to 
call in introjection, that is to say the tendency to situate 
in others or in things the reciprocal feelings to those we 
experience from their contact. 

The principle of introjection is clear enough. All that 
either resists or obeys the self is thought to possess an 
activity as distinct as that of the self which commands or 
tries to overcome the resistance. Thus the consciousness 
of effort supposes force in the resisting object, the 
consciousness of desire supposes that of purpose in the 
obstacle, the consciousness of pain that of ill wiU in the 
object which is causing the pain, etc. 

The cause of the introjection evidently lies in ego- 
centricity, namely in the tendency to believe that every- 
thing evolves around the self. To win free of egocentri- 
city, that is, to attain an impersonal view of things, is to 
be rid of introjection. The following cases clearly illustrate 
the mechanism. "Who made that scratch?" (indicating 
her own hand), Nel questioned. " It hurts there ? It was 
the wall that hit me." (Nel was aged 2:9). Or again, the 
following recollection of his childhood by Michelet : — 

" I had just escaped having my head guillotined by a 
window sash. I had climbed on to a chair and was looking 
down when the window fell with a crash. We both remained 
a moment stupefied. I was fascinated by this window which 
I had seen moving by itself like a person and even quicker 
than I could. I was certain it had wanted to do me harm 
and for a long while I never came near it without experiencing 
feelings of fear and anger." ^ 

The above is the simplest type of case ; objects that 
provoke pain or fear are regarded as doing so from a 
conscious purpose, because the self is still egocentric and 
in consequence is unable to give a disinterested or im- 
personal judgment. Such cases are innumerable and it 
is unnecessary to enumerate them further. 

On the other hand, a particular case to which attention 
must be drawn is that of the child who attributes to things 

^ Michelet, Ma jeunesse, p. 17. 



THE ORIGINS OF CHILD ANIMISM 243 

a movement of an anthropocentric character without 
realising that this involves an illusion. Such is the case 
when we believe that the sun and the clouds follow us. In 
these cases not only does the child mistake the apparent 
movement for the real, through failing to distinguish the 
personal from the objective point of view, but also he 
beheves forthwith that the pursuit is intentional, and by 
introjection he attributes all manner of human feelings to 
the sun and the moon. 

The two following observations belong probably to this 
category : — 

One of us can distinctly recollect the curious experience 
of turning round quickly to see if the things behind him 
were still there or had disappeared. 

A like experience gave rise to the following. Bohn (i) 
reports this conversation with a boy of 5 ; i : " Daddy 
is all that really here ? — What do you mean by all that ? — 
All these things. Can I really see them all? — You can see 
them and feel them. They are always there. — No, they 
are not always there. When I turn away from them, they 
aren't there. — When you turn back they are always in the 
same place. — They are all alive. They are always moving 
and going away. When I go close to them, they come close 
to me. — But aren't they always in the same place ? — No, I 
only dream them and they come into my dream and go out of 
it again." Then the child walked slowly about the room 
touching the things and saying : " Look at them coming and 
going away again." ^ 

These two cases are of great interest. In both the child 
wants to know whether the changes he observes in his 
visual surroundings are due to his own change of position, 
and therefore to his own activity, or to the things them- 
selves. In so far as he tends to the second solution he is 
animist. In so far as he adopts the first, that is to say is 
aware of his own part in the continued transformation of 
the perspective of objects he has ceased to be animist. 
Both cases occurred at a time when the self, half conscious 
of itself, felt the strangeness of wondering what part in 

1 Pedagogical Seminary ^ 1916: " A child's questions." 



244 CHILD'S CONCEPTION OF THE WORLD 

the structure of the world was played by things and what 
by his own activity. The second child shows still, in 
addition, a semi-magic attitude of participating with 
things ; they " are in my dream." 

In these last cases, and in numerous others of the same 
type, animism thus results from egocentricity. The self 
is sufficiently conscious of its limitations to know that 
neither the sun nor things depend directly on its own 
desire or will (which is why these cases show hardly any 
magic), but this consciousness is not yet sufficiently 
developed to realise that the apparent movements of 
things are due to an illusion in his own perspective. 

In short, introjection results from the egocentric 
tendency to beUeve that everything gravitates around 
us and it consists in attributing to things such powers 
as they would need either to obey us, or to resist. 

It would seem that we are here falling back on to the 
solutions of Ribot or of Freud which regard animism as 
due to a simple projection. But it must be clearly em- 
phasised that introjection is impossible without the 
indissociation just referred to. It may be described as a 
tertiary indissociation (by contrast with the secondary 
indissociation discussed above) which consists, in attri- 
buting to things not only what belongs to us (Life and 
consciousness, which the child regards as inseparable from 
activity or from movement in general) but also charac- 
teristics reciprocal to our own — malice when we are afraid, 
obedience when we command, intentional resistance when 
we cannot command obedience, etc. Introjection is in 
fact impossible to a mind that is not reaUst — the stone 
that hurts the child can only be regarded as wicked if all 
activity is regarded as intentional, etc. 

The mutual dependence of introjection and indissociation 
is confirmed in the clearest manner by these circumstances. 
The primitive indissociation of ideas has its origin, as has 
been shown, in the child's realism, that is to say in the 
absence of all knowledge of self or the incapacity to dis- 
tinguish the activity of the thinking subject. Intro- 



THE ORIGINS OF CHILD ANIMISM 245 

jection, on the other hand, is bound up with egocentricity 
from which it arises and which it in turn fosters. But it 
is precisely this egocentricity which accounts for realism 
— it is the fact of being unable to distinguish the part 
played by one's own perspective in one's conceptions of 
objects which causes a mind to be reahst and unable to 
distinguish the subjective from the objective. 

Primitive consciousness is thus enclosed within a sort 
of circle ; to separate the tangled ideas which confuse both 
the objective and the subjective, thought must first 
become conscious of itself and be distinguished from 
things, but to be distinguished from things, thought must 
not introject into them the illusory characteristics due to 
an egocentric perspective. Moreover, in the degree in 
which, by reason of exchange and discussions between 
individuals, the self becomes aware of itself and breaks 
away from its egocentricity, it ceases to introject feelings 
into things and by dissociation of the confused primitive 
ideas is able to escape from animism even in its diffuse 
form. 

It remains now to discuss the social factors which 
favour the persistence of animism in children. Here, too, 
two complementary groups may be distingiiished ; first, 
the feelings of participation that the child's social environ- 
ment must arouse in him, and secondly, the moral obhgation 
which is forced on him by education. 

The first of these factors is all important. As was 
pointed out when considering magic, the child, whose 
every activity is Unked from the cradle onwards to a com- 
plementary activity on the part of his parents, must during 
his first years Uve with the impression of being perpetually 
surrounded by thoughts and actions directed to his well- 
being. It must seem to him as if his every aim and motive 
were known and shared by those surrounding him. He 
must suppose himself to be continually seen, understood 
and forestalled. Later, when the child begins to exchange 
his thoughts with his brothers or friends he stiU maintains 
this tendency to believe that his least syllable is under- 



246 CHILD'S CONCEPTION OF THE WORLD 

stood — a fact which, as we have seen, lies at the root of 
his egocentric language {Language and Thought, Chapters 
I, III) ; he supposes, that is, that his thought is common 
to all since he has not attempted to escape from his own 
personal point of view. 

If this is so, this feeling of communion should colour 
aU his vision of the world. Nature must appear peopled 
with beings either favourable or disquieting. Animals, as 
has often been noted, cause feelings of this sort and the 
child certainly has the impression at times of being 
understood by them or sometimes of making himself 
understood. 

Thus Nel (2:9), whose remarks were quoted in § 10, 
has frequent conversations with animals : " Good-bye, 
cow," she said to a cow. " Come here, cow. Come, cow." 
And to a grasshopper : " You'll see, Miss Grasshopper " — 
(and as it escapes) " What are you up to, grasshopper ? " 

Pie (6) in front of an aquarium, looking at a salamander: 
" Oh, look how surprised it is by that whopper (a fish). 
Salamander, you ought to eat the fish ! " 

This seems like romancing, but it must be remembered 
that children of 8 years old still do not hesitate to believe 
that animals know their names (see Chapter II, § 6) : 
" Does a fish know that it is called a fish ? — Of course ! " 
(Mart. 8 ; 10). 

The cases quoted by Freud under the title of " infantine 
returns to totemism " ^ are well known. Whatever be 
the interpretation given to these facts, they teach two 
things. First, that the child adopts certain animals into 
his moral hfe. Secondly, by so doing, he attributes to 
them a share in certain of the relations existing between 
him and his parents, for example, if he has done wrong, 
he feels that the animal knows all about it, etc. In the 
examples Freud quotes, the part played by educators in 
the genesis of the child's beliefs certainly needs question- 
ing : people can always be found stupid enough to 
threaten their children with the fury of dogs or horses if 

^ Freud, Totem and Taboo. 



THE ORIGINS OF CHILD ANIMISM 247 

they behave badly etc. But the spontaneous tendency 
children show, when swayed by fear or remorse, to regard 
the whole world as aware of their fault, is such a general 
one that the cases quoted by Freud, Wulf, Ferenczi, etc. 
certainly seem to contain an element of spontaneous 
conviction. 

It seems extremely probable that these feelings of 
participation may be finally transferred to the things 
themselves and that this fact constitutes one of the factors 
of child animism. We seemed to find at least a trace of 
this tendency of children to feel they are being seen and 
even watched in certain answers, quoted in § 2 and 
relating to the sun and moon. The moon " watches us," 
said Ga (8^). The sun moves " to hear what we are saying " 
(Jac. 6). The moon is " curious " (Pur 8 ; 8). The sun 
" watches us " (Fran 9), etc.. It has often been noticed, 
too, how frightened children are when they see the moon 
from their bed. " The moon sends our dreams " said 
Ban at 4^. But most convincing is the case quoted 
by James (see Chapter IV, § 2) of the deaf-mute who 
associated the moon with his moral life and regarded it 
as responsible for the punishments he received and finally 
came to identify it with his own mother, long since 
dead. 

If this is the natural tendency of the child's mind, the 
feeling of moral obhgation which he acquires m the course 
of his education must be distmguished as a special factor 
in animism. As M. Bovet has shown in his admirable 
study ^ the feeling of obligation results from respect for 
instruction. But as was shown {Language and Thought, 
Chapter V) a child of 6 may ask many questions con- 
cerning rules and inhibitions, whilst with children Irom 
2 to 5 questions are repeatedly asked in the form : " Why 
must we do that ? " — " Must we do this ? " — " Should it 
be done like that ? " etc. Concern of this sort is evident 
throughout the child's whole mentality, although it is well 

^ Bovet, " Les conditions de I'obligation de conscience," Annee 
Psychologique," Vol. XVill (1912). 



248 CHILD'S CONCEPTION OF THE WORLD 

before any need has arisen to explain the " why " of such 
phenomena. Physical necessity is confused with moral 
necessity ; natural law has a moral origin, and the power 
of nature is regarded as of the type of compulsion a chief 
exerts over his obedient subjects or that adults exert over 
children. That this is a special factor of animism was 
sufficiently shown in § 3 of this chapter : it is not because 
the child beheves things to be alive that he regarded them 
as obedient, but it is because he believes them to be 
obedient that he regards them as alive. 

In short, factors of the individual order and those of 
the social order (the second being moreover an extension 
of the first) meet in the formation and development of 
child animism. To be complete, yet another factor must 
be mentioned, which although not itself a cause of animism 
is certainly of great importance in its systematisation : 
this is the language of the environment. 

This is so for two reasons. As M. Bally has put it, 
language always lags in its aptitude for expression. That 
is to say, when speaking in images we are always com- 
pelled to draw on forms of expression that we have really 
outgrown. For example, we say " the sun is trying to 
break through the mist," which is an animistic and 
dynamic way of speaking, and moreover takes no account 
of the distance which in reaUty separates the sun from 
the mist and suggests they are actually engaged in conflict. 
It is therefore not to be wondered at that the child takes 
hterally personifications of language (such as the French 
" le soleil se couche "), finalistic expressions (such as " the 
river is flowing to get to the lake "), anthropomorphic or 
artificialist expressions (such as " the heat is making the 
water boil," " the steam is trying to escape ") and even quasi- 
magical expressions (such as " the clouds foretell rain "). 
Adult language provides the very conditions necessary to 
foster the child's animism and this the more so, since 
generally speaking the child takes all metaphors hterally 
— it looks to see " a broken arm " tumble on to the ground, 
whilst the phrase "go to the devil " constituted, for a 



THE ORIGINS OF CHILD ANIMISM 249 

child of 9 of our acquaintance, the proof that the devil 
is not far off. 

But it is obvious that in all these cases, language is not 
the cause of child animism in general. It is simply the 
cause of animism following one particular line — already 
determined — rather than another. There is simply, as 
Stem^ maintains, "convergence" between the regressive 
tendencies of language and the child's natural trend of 
mind. It is not the child which is moulded by language ; 
it is the language which is already childish. 

But this is not all. As was pointed out by W. Jerusalem ^ 
language itself, apart from this exceptional imagery, 
" dramatises " the simplest judgments. The fact of 
separating the subject from the verb and the predicate 
leads the mind to substantialise the subject and to endow 
it with an activity of its own and with distinct qualities, 
as if the subject was something more than the sum of its 
actions and the sum of its qualities. When, for example, 
Ross (9 ; 9) says that the wind may not know what it is 
doing " because it is not a person " but it none the less 
must know that it is blowing " because it's it that blows," 
he is, in the most interesting way, putting his finger on 
this very problem. To say of the wind "it's it that blows " 
is in fact to make the wind into something that is both 
active, material and permanent. It is to be thrice the 
victim of words. By tolerating the expression " the 
wind blows " or simply by speaking of the " wind " as if 
it were a person, language perpetrates, in fact, the triple 
absurdity of suggesting that the wind can be independent 
of the action of blowing, that there can be a wind that does 
not blow, and that the wind exists apart from its outward 
manifestations. But it is so natural to us to talk in this 
way that we regard it almost as correct. When we say 
" cold fish calls for mayonnaise " we do not suppose that 
the fish itself actually calls at all, but when we say " the 
wind blows " we really beheve that " it " blows. This is 

^ Die Kinder spy ache, Leipzig, 1907. 

* Die Uriheilsf unction, Vienna and Leipzig, 1895, pp. 109-111. 



250 CHILD'S CONCEPTION OF THE WORLD 

the explanation of Ross's reasoning. He is a materialist 
without realising it, as are common sense and language 
itself. 

Such cases certainly favour Max Miiller's doctrine that 
the animism of savages, together also with all religion, is 
a "disease of language." Again, it is obvious that it is 
simply a matter of convergence between language and 
mentality, be it primitive or child. Thought creates 
language and then passes beyond it, but language turns 
on thought and seeks to imprison it. 

To conclude, we have seen how complex is the genesis 
of animism.. But it will have been noticed that, apart 
from the verbal factor, the factors conditioning the 
genesis of the child's animism are approximately those 
conditioning the formation of feelings, of participation, and 
of magical causation. Animism and participation are in 
fact complementary phenomena, or are rather, the 
independent phases of the same process of naturalising 
reality. Three stages may be distinguished in the process. 
During the first stage, the self and things are completely 
confused ; there is participation between all and every- 
thing, and desire can exert a magical activity over reality. 
During the second stage, the self is differentiated from 
things, but subjective aspects still adhere to things. The 
self is now felt partially to participate with things and 
believes itself capable of acting on them from a distance 
because it regards the various instruments (words, images, 
gestures, etc.) by means of which it thinks of things, as 
inseparable from the things. Moreover, things are neces- 
sarily animate, because since the self is not yet distin- 
guished from things, psychical and physical ideas are not 
yet dissociated. During this second stage, magic and 
animism are therefore complementary. This is the period 
when the child, believing itself to be followed by the sun 
and the moon, can interpret the fact equally in terms of 
magic (" it's I who make them move ") or of animism 
(" it's they who follow me "). Finally, in a third stage, 
the self is so far distinguished from things that the 



THE ORIGINS OF CHILD ANIMISM 251 

instruments of thought can no longer be conceived as 
adherent in things, words are no longer in things, images 
and thought are situated in the head. Gestures are no 
longer effective. Magic is no more. But, as was shown 
(Chapter II, § 8), the distinction between sign and thing 
signified appears before that of internal and external and 
above all before that of psychic and physical. In other 
words, the distinction between the self and things may be 
fairly advanced without the dissociation of subjective from 
objective ideas having reached the point of causing 
animism to disappear. During this third stage animism 
therefore remains whilst magic tends to disappear. 
Feelings of participation tend also to come to an end or 
at any rate they assume the completely animist form of 
simple communion between minds— thus according as the 
child continues to believe the sun to be alive after giving 
up the idea that it follows us, the sun will perhaps still 
appear to him as concerned with our doings and desiring 
our well-being, but this involves merely an intelhgible 
relationship between one person and another. It is no 
longer participation, strictly speaking, in the sense that 
material participation is no longer possible. That animism 
survives magic and in rationalising the primitive parti- 
cipations comes to absorb them, is what will be .shown by 
the cases quoted in the succeeding research on artificialism. 
We may merely conclude for the moment tliat during the 
primitive stage magic and animism arc both related and 
complementary. 



PART III 

ARTIFICIALISM 

We shall borrow the term artificialism from a study 
which M. Brunschvicg has devoted to the physics of 
Aristotle.^ According to M. Brunschvicg, two tendencies 
whose real antagonism has been shown by stoic and 
mediaeval physics came to converge in the peripatetic 
system ; one of these leads Aristotle to regard all things 
as the product of art, and of an art analogous to human 
technique ; the other urges him to attribute to things, 
internal forces and appetites similar to those possessed 
by living beings. " Aristotle," says M. Brunschvicg, 
"speaks alternately as a sculptor and as a biologist."^ 
To the first of these tendencies, that which leads to the 
conception of things as resulting from a transcendent 
act of " creation," M. Brunschvicg gives the name 
" artificialism." The artificiaHsm of Aristotle is, to be 
sure, learned and in keeping with the entire peripatetic 
philosophy and in particular with the materialism of 
the logic of classes. Moreover, this artificiahsm is im- 
manent as much as transcendent : creative activity is 
attributed to Nature (regarded, it is true, as baleful) just 
as much as to a divine mover. Child artificiahsm, on thie 
contrary, is more implicit than systematic and tran- 
scendent rather than immanent : it consists in regarding 
things cLS the product of human creation, rather than in 
attributing creative activity to the things themselves. 

^ L. Brunschvicg, L'expirience humaine et la causality physique, 
livres V-VII. 
* p. 140. 



254 CHILD'S CONCEPTION OF THE WORLD 

But here also, as in the case of animism, the name matters 
but little. Provided we note clearly the differences 
existing between child animism and Greek animism, it is 
an advantage to use the same word in both cases to signify 
the same tendency to confuse material causality and 
human creation. 

Still more, the conflict that M. Brunschvicg stresses 
between the immanent dynamism of biology and the 
transcendent dynamism of artificialism in the physics of 
Aristotle, may perhaps correspond, on an obviously lower 
reflective plane, to the duaUsm represented in the child 
by animism and artificialism — which in consequence must 
correspond to some very general tendency in the history 
of human thought : things are regarded on one hand 
as hving and on the other as created. The questions 
now to be considered are whether this dualism in 
the child's thought is primitive or merely derived, 
whether it gives rise to contradiction or whether 
there is a stage which involves both animism and 
artificiaUsm ? 

But child artificialism is much too intricate a pheno- 
menon — both in its manifestations and in the psycho- 
logical components lying at its root — for it to be possible 
to give our research a systematic form. The course we 
are compelled to follow is analytic much more than 
synthetic, that is to say, that we shall study one after 
the other the explanations which children give as to the 
origins of the sun and moon, the sky, rivers, primitive 
matter, mountains, etc., rather than trace the different 
stages of artificialism throughout its history. The method 
we shall follow has, moreover, certain advantages in that 
it is not based on any prejudice concerning the homo- 
geneity or above all the synchronism of the child's arti- 
ficialist conceptions. 

Further, we must make it clear that we shall deal 
here only with children's ideas concerning origins and 
take no account of ideas concerning the activity of things 
or the cause of their movements. These last questions 



ARTIFICIALISM 255 

will form the subject of the sequel to this work (see 
Causalite Physique) . 

Finally, we must offer Sully a well-earned tribute for 
having emphasised the existence and importance of child 
artificiaHsm. According to him, " the one mode of origin 
which the embryo thinker is really and directly familiar 
with is the making of things." ^ 

^ See Sully, Studies oj Childhood, pp. 79, 127. 



CHAPTER VIII 

THE ORIGIN OF THE SUN AND MOON 

It may seem strange to ask children where the sun and 
the moon and the stars come from. The idea of it did not 
occur to us for a long while, and when it did we hesitated 
to apply it for fear the children should think we were 
making fun of them. As a matter of fact, however, 
scarcely any question seems absurd to a child. To wonder 
where the sun comes from is no stranger to him than to 
speculate about rivers or clouds or smoke. This may 
suggest that the children, on their part, are trifling with 
the psychologists and that their rephes have no significant 
correspondence with a real and spontaneous process of 
thought in their minds. That this is not the case, we 
think is borne out by the investigations which are now 
to be recounted and which it is claimed bear evidence of 
genuine spontaneity. Children's questions indicate a real 
interest on their part in the sun and the stars, and the 
very form in which they put the questions points to the 
nature of the solution which they themselves are inchned 
to favour. This point must be briefly examined for it is 
very important not to corrupt the child's natural tend- 
encies by means of inept tests. 

It is only necessary to glance through a Hst of questions 
put by children of from 3-5, to find examples hke this : 
Fran (2 ; 5) asks " Who made the sun ? " The very form 
of this question is artificiaUst. Stanley HaU quotes the 
following examples : At 5 years of age, " Why is there a 
moon ? " At 3^ years, " What makes the sun shine ? " and 
" Who is it puts the stars in the sky at night? " At 5 years, 
" Who is it makes the stars twinkle ? " 

266 



ORIGIN OF THE SUN AND MOON 257 

Furthermore, a spontaneous interest in the phases of 
the moon is to be noticed which we shall see is related 
to artificiahsm. At 5 years : " Why isn't the moon round 
now when it is sometimes ? " At 9 years : " Why isn't the 
moon always the same shape ? Why is it big sometimes and 
little at others ? " and " What's the moon made of ? " 

It is clear enough from these questions that there is 
a tendency to consider the sun and moon as being made 
by somebody and to find an originating cause for their 
activities. The same thing is apparent in the following 
instance : — 

D'Estrella, one of the deaf-mutes quoted by W. James 
(Chapter VII, § 10), recounts how he thought that the sun 
was a ball of fire. At first he thought there were lots of 
suns, one for each day. He did not understand how they 
could rise or set. One evening he happened to see some 
boys who were throwing up and catching string balls 
which had been dipped in oil and lighted. This made 
him think of the sun and he decided that it must have 
been thrown up and caught in the same manner. But by 
whom ? Then he supposed that there must be a tremend- 
ously strong man hidden in some way behind the moun- 
tains (the town of San Francisco is surrounded by moun- 
tains). The sun was a ball of fire with which he played, 
throwing it up very high in the sky every morning and 
catching it again every evening. He supposed that God 
{i.e. the very strong man) Ut the stars for his own use 
just as we hght the gas. 

When allowance had been made for the logical form 
which d'Estrella gives his recollections, they correspond 
in a striking degree to the replies which we are about to 
analyse. What, in short, we have to do is to make the 
questions we put to the children correspond to a certain 
extent with some of the spontaneous questions which 
they themselves ask. But if the results are to be con- 
vincing, we must do still more. We must establish in 
the replies given to our questions at different ages a 
continuous development and this development must itself 
follow a definitely marked curve or gradation. This is 
precisely what the facts do show. 



258 CHILD'S CONCEPTION OF THE WORLD 

It is, in fact, possible to distinguish in the development 
of conceptions relative to the origins of the sun and moon 
three stages more or less clearly marked. During the 
first, the child ascribes them to human agency (or divine, 
but we shall see that this amounts practically to the 
same thing). During the second stage an origin half 
natural, half artificial is propounded ; they are due, for 
instance, to the condensation of the clouds, but the clouds 
themselves come from the roofs of houses or from the 
smoke which is produced by men. Finally, during the 
third stage, the child reaches the idea that human activity 
has nothing to do with the origin of the sun. The child 
invents a natural origin (condensation of the air, of the 
clouds, etc.) or, less frequently, refuses to speculate on 
the matter as being too difficult for him. 

§ I. A Primitive Example of the First Stage. — 
One of the most illuminating cases that we have obtained 
is that of Roy, in which certain primitive characteristics 
show well the original connection between animism and 
artificiahsm. We quote it almost in its entirety : — 

Roy (6; o) : "How did the sun begin? — It was 
when life began. — Has there always been a sun ? — No. — 
How did it begin ? — Because it knew that life had begun. — 
What is it made of ? — Of fire. — But how ? — Because there 
was fire up there. — Where did the fire come from ? — From 
the sky. — How was the fire made in the sky ? — It was 
lighted with a match. — Where did it come from, this match ? 
— God threw it away." After a moment's pause : " What 
is life ? — It is when one is alive. — What made life begin ? 
— We did, when we started living." 

Then after another interval and in connection with the 
four quarters of the moon, Roy said : " The moon has 
become a whole one. — How ? — Because it's grown. — How 
does the moon grow ? — Because it gets bigger. — How does 
that come about ? — Because we get bigger (Parce que nous 
on grandit). — What makes it get bigger ? — It's the clouds. 
(Roy said a little earlier that it is the clouds which cut 
the moon and make it into a crescent : "It is the clouds 
which have cut it.") — What do they do ? — They help it to 
grow." " How did the moon begin ? — Because we began 
to be alive. — What did that do ? — It made the moon get 



ORIGIN OF THE SUN AND MOON 259 

bigger. — Is the moon alive ? — No . . . Yes. — Why ? — 
Because we are alive. — How was it made ? — Because we 
were made. — And that makes the moon get bigger ? — Yes. 
— How ? . . . Why ? — It is the clouds that have made it 
get bigger. — Is the sun alive ? — Yes. — Why ? — Because we 
are alive. — Does it know when it's day ? — Yes. — How ? 
— // can see that it's day." 

Three weeks later we saw Roy again and made sure 
that he had forgotten what we had previously talked 
about. " How did the sun begin ? — With fire. — Where 
did it come from ? — From a match. — How did the sun 
get big ? — Because we get big. — Who makes the sun get 
big ? — The clouds. — And we ? — It's because we eat. — Does 
the sun eat ? — No. — How do the clouds make the sun 
bigger ? — Because the clouds get bigger too." ^ " And how 
did the moon begin ? — With fire 2'oo.— How did it get 
bigger ? — Just like we get bigger. — Why did it get bigger ? 
— Because the clouds made it get bigger. — How ? — Because 
they get bigger too. — If there were no clouds would the moon 
get bigger then ? — No . . . Yes. All the same it would be 
able to, just like we do." 

This case is worth studying closely, because it shows 
extremely clearly how artificialism and animism arise 
simultaneously out of the primitive participations that the 
child estabhshes between things and man. 

There are, in fact, three tendencies in Roy's thought : 
(i) An artificiahst tendency ; the sun and moon have 
been made by man. Their origin lies in the flame of a 
match. (2) An animist tendency ; the sun and the moon 
are alive, they know when it is day-time, and what we are 
doing, etc. (3) A tendency to estabhsh participations 
between them and ourselves ; they grow because we 
grow, they began to live " because we were made " 

1 In order to understand Roy's statements it should be noted that 
in other conversations Roy has said : — 

(a) It is the clouds which make the wind and vice versa (Chap. IX, § 7, 

and CausalitS Physique, Chap. I). 

(b) We are ourselves full of wind, which has at the same time some- 

thmg to do with the clouds ; it is this wind \yhich makes us get 
bigger [CausaliU Physique, Chap. II). 

(c) In its origin the wind has come from men ; it is " somebody who 

blew " (Causalite Physique, Chap. II). 
One can distinguish here a system of participations. 



26o CHILD'S CONCEPTION OF THE WORLD 

(" parce que nous, on s'est fait "), etc. Let us try to deter- 
mine how far these three tendencies are primitive and 
what are the relations existing between them. 

First of all, it is clear that the artificialist myth accord- 
ing to which the sun and moon come from the flame of 
a match, is not so primitive as the feelings of participation 
between the sun and moon and human beings ; it is the 
myth which is derived from these feelings and not the 
inverse. The myth is, in fact, more or less an effort of 
invention. Roy made up the myth when pressed to 
define the origins but his spontaneous thought was satis- 
fied with a much vaguer relation between the sun and 
man. This relation amounted to no more than this, that 
man in coming to life thereby provoked the same sort of 
activity in the sun and moon. This does not constitute 
an idea that the sun was actually made by man, it simply 
indicates a participation between them and it was only 
when Roy was asked to define this participation more 
exactly that he had recourse to frank artificialism, that 
is to the myth of their origin in human construction. 

The same is true with animism. In Roy's view the sun 
and moon " grow," they are conscious, alive, etc. But there 
are no grounds for supposing that this animism is prior 
to the feelings of participation Roy experiences ; the sun 
and moon grow because we grow, they are aUve because 
we are alive, etc. The relations between animism and 
participation have been sufficiently discussed in earlier 
chapters and it is not necessary to return to them here. 
The notion of participation leads to that of animism and 
by nature precedes it, though animism may subsequently 
react on participation by confirming and consolidating it. 

It seems then that the impressions of participation 
that Roy experiences are at the root of the other mani- 
festations of his thought. But what are these partici- 
pations ? To say that the moon grows bigger " because 
we get bigger," that it is alive " because we are alive," is 
to use formulae which, in the first instance, express simple 
images or comparisons, without concern as to a causal 



ORIGIN OF THE SUN AND MOON 261 

explanation. As far as Roy is concerned it is also a habit 
of speech which he used to reply to other questions ; as 
for example, the wind goes along " because we go along," 
and the sun does not try to go away " because sometimes 
we don't try to." But the study we have made of the 
beUef that the sun and moon follow our movements has 
shown clearly enough (Chapter VII, § 2) that a heavenly 
body which moves " when we move " moves as a result 
of our movement. Still further, when Roy claims that 
the moon came into being " because we began to Uve " 
and that " that made the moon grow bigger," or again 
when Roy affirms that even without the help of the clouds, 
the moon would have grown because of us, it seems that 
he has in view not merely analogy but genuine causaUty. 
Analogy may enter into Roy's reasoning, but only inas- 
much as analogy and causality are always confused by 
children still in the stage of " precausality," that is to 
say where the logical or the moral is confused with the 
physical. 

It may be that the impressions of participation to which 
the question of the origins of the sun and moon give rise 
are to be explained as follows. When Roy said that they 
began to exist " when Ufe began " and " because we 
began to be alive " it seems that he might have been 
thinking in more or less vague terms of the origin of 
babies and that his ideas on the origin of things might be 
a function of his ideas on the birth of human beings. 
Roy, like many children, has perhaps begun to wonder 
where babies come from, and from that to ask himself 
questions as to the origins of things, with the implicit 
tendency to relate the birth of things to that of men. 
We shall see subsequently some examples of artificialist 
interests originating and developing along these lines- 
We must first inquire what are the ideas of children on 
the origin of babies. Their first impression is of a con- 
nection between babies and parents : they feel that the 
latter play an essential part in the arrival of the baby — 
either that they have bought, found or otherwise obtained 



262 CHILD'S CONCEPTION OF THE WORLD 

it. Finally, they invent an explanation for their con- 
viction, namely, that the parents have made it. In this 
case the feeling of a connection precedes the myth and 
actually gives rise to it. 

Whatever may be thought of this particular proposition, 
whose accuracy may be judged by what follows, we can 
understand the true relations existing between Rov's 
feehngs of participation, animism and artificialism ; the 
foundation of them is in the feehngs of participation, and 
it is when the child seeks to systematise these feelings 
that he has recourse to animistic and artificiahst myths. 

Thus, on the one hand, Roy, when urged to define 
the contents of his participations which seem to partake 
of the character both of analogy and of causahty, fell back 
on animist explanations. For example, speaking of the 
clouds, he replied : — 

" Can we make the clouds grow bigger ? — No. — Why 
do they grow bigger ? — Because we grow bigger (Roy 
admits thus what he has just denied). — Why do you 
gro\y bigger ? — Because I eat. — Does that make the clouds 
bigger too ? — No, they grow because they know that we do." 
And after a moment : " How did the clouds start ? — 
Because we were growing. — Is it we who make them grow 
bigger ? — No, it isn't us, but the clouds know we are growing." 

In other words, the universe is a society of like beings 
living according to a well-ordered code of rules ; every 
analogy is at the same time a logical relationship since 
analogy signifies common or interacting purposes and 
every purpose is a cause. One even feels that, for Roy, 
the members of this universe necessarily imitate each 
other so that when we grow the moon and the clouds 
are forced to follow suit. Clearly, when Roy is made to 
define his ideas his participations develop into animistic 
explanations. 

But, on the other hand, in this universe consisting of a 
society of living beings, Roy gives the first place to man 
(or alternatively to God, which amounts to the same 
since he conceives God as a " gentleman " who hghts 



ORIGIN or THE SUN AND MOON 263 

matches and throws them away). The sun, moon, clouds, 
etc., were brought into being by the appearance of man. 
It is man's growth which stimulates growth in things, 
etc. Here actually lies the difference between partici- 
pations of the artificialist type and those of the animist 
type. Though they are different they are not contra- 
dictory but complementary. ArtificiaUsm is then, in its 
simplest form, the tendency to believe that human beings 
control the creation and conduct of other beings which 
are regarded as being in some degree alive and conscious. 
But here, as in animism, when the child is invited to be 
precise, he invents a myth. In the case of artificialism 
the myth consists of a fiction whereby man has created 
matter. The myth of the match in which the sun origin- 
ates, marks a pronounced stage in artificialism, inasmuch 
as Roy now provides the details of the process of creation 
whereas hitherto he has limited himself to the simple 
conviction that such a process existed. But, from the 
very outset, artificiahsm is mingled with the feelings of 
participation which the child experiences, not so much 
between his self and things, but rather, between his 
parents or adults in general and the world of matter. 

To conclude, Roy's artificiahsm comes, like his animism, 
from his feehngs of participation and without any contra- 
diction with animism. They are, considered separately, 
two complementary systematisations of the same feehngs 
of participation. 

§ 2. The First Stage : the Sun and Moon are made 
Artificially. — Roy's case has led us to certain hyjx)- 
theses which wiU serve as the main thread in our research. 
In the following more developed cases the artihcialist 
myths stand out more clearly from the primitive partici- 
pations. 

Purr (8 ; 8) : " What is a crescent (croissant de lune) ? 
— The moon has cut itself up. — How ? Does it cut itself 
up or is it something else that does it ? — It is the moon 
that does it. — On purpose ? — No, it is when it is born, it is 
quite small. — Why ? — It can't he big at first. It's like us 



264 CHILD'S CONCEPTION OF THE WORLD 

when we are little babies. It does just the same. — When 
there's a crescent is it always the same moon ? — Some- 
times it's the same, sometimes it's another. — How many 
are there ? — Lots. So many that you can't count them. 
The moon is of fire too. — Why is it cut up ? — So as to be 
able to shine in more than one place. ... ( = it cuts itself 
up in order to shine at the same time in different places). 
Where does it come from ? — From the sky. — How did it 
begin ? — It came from Heaven. It was born from God (!) 
— And the sun. — It was born from God too. 

Jacot (6^) beheves that the sun is of fire : " How did 
it begin ? — It was quite tiny. — Where does it come from ? 
— From Heaven. — How did it begin in the sky? — Always 
getting bigger." Jacot says that the sun is ahve and 
conscious. It has grown Uke a Uving thing. It was made 
by human beings. 

Gaud (6 ; 8) : " What is the moon Uke ? — Round. 
Sometimes there is only half of it. — Why is there only half 
of it ? — Because that is how it starts. — Why ? — Because 
there is a lot of daylight (he means that the moon remains 
small during the day and only grows at night). — Where 
is the other half ? — That's because it's not finished, not 
absolutely finished. — What does it make itself like ? — 
Round. — How does it begin ? — Quite small : then it keeps 
on getting bigger. — Where does it come from ? — From 
Heaven. — How does it make itself ? — Quite tiny. — Does 
it make itself aU alone ? — No, God does it. — How ? — 
With his hands." Gaud adds that the moon is alive and 
conscious. It deliberately follows us about, etc. The 
sun is equally alive and has been made. 

Moc (lo ; 2, backward) is a very curious case because 
of his affective reactions. He says about the sun : " It 
used to be quite small, then it got big." He assigns life and 
consciousness to it. But to the question " where does 
it come from ? " he is seized with embarrassment, blushes 
violently, turns his head away, and finally, in great 
discomfort says that the sun comes from " the person 
who has made it come. — What do you mean ? — From the 
person who made it. — Who was he ? A man ? — Yes. — 
Was it really a man or was it God ? — Oh ! God or a 
man, or someone." The cause for this embarrassment is 
certainly not to be found in the difficulty of the problem 
for it was clear that Moc had a solution in his mind but 
it was one which he shrank from confessing. It was no 
sort of reUgious compunction, for during the whole con- 



ORIGIN OF THE SUN AND MOON 265 

versation Moc was, without systematic preference, ready 
to regard God or " man " indifferently as the author of 
any particular phenomenon. The only explanation of 
his embarrassment is that he is upset when he is spoken 
to about birth. He must have been told that everything 
to do with birth is taboo and the questions concerning 
the sun seemed to him of a shocking nature. For this 
reason it was not possible to proceed further with his 
examination. Such a case shows how intimately animism 
and artificiahsm may be connected. 

In the foregoing cases one can see that the children 
identify the advent of the sun and moon with the birth 
of a living being it being granted, naturally, that the child 
conceives such a birth as a sort of manufacture whose 
process is not precisely understood but which is in essence 
the construction of something living. In any case, the 
children whose replies are recorded above speak of the 
growth of the heavenly bodies, as if the sun and moon 
began by being tiny like babies. 

The following children, on the contrary, try to define 
the manner in which the manufacture took place though 
sometimes this manufacture is still identified with a birth. 
Also, as we shall see, the children continue to consider 
the sun and the moon as being aUve and conscious ; 
animistic and artificiaHst tendencies are still complement- 
ary to each other : — 

Caud (9:4): " How did the sun start ? — With heat. — 
What heat ? — From the fire. — Where is the fire ? — In 
Heaven. — How did it start ? — God lit it with wood and 
coal. — Where did he get the wood and coal ? — He made it. 
— How did the fire make the sun }■ — The fire is the sun." 
Up to now it seems that Caud is no longer animistic but 
this is not so: "Does the sun see us? — No. — Does it 
feel the heat ? — Yes. — Does it see at night ? — No. — Does 
it see in the day ? — Yes, of course ! It sees because it makes 
the light for itself." 

Fran (9) : " How did the sun begin ? — It was a big 
ball. — How did it begin ? — By getting bigger and bigger 
and then afterwards they told it to go up in the air. It is like 
a balloon. — Where did this ball come from ? — / think it is 
a great stone. I believe it is made of a great ball of it. — Are 



266 CHILD'S CONCEPTION OF THE WORLD 

you sure of all that ? — Yes, sure.— How did it get made ? 
— They made it into a big ball. — Who did ? — Some men." 
At the same time Fran thinks that the sun sees us and 
deliberately follows us. On the other hand, the identi- 
fication of the sun with a stone is not contradictory with 
the assertion that the sun has grown, for we shall see that 
a great number of children believe that stones grow in 
the earth. Here again are artificialism and animism 
closely related. 

As to the moon, Fran, like many other children, believes 
that it is the same object as the sun but that on account 
of the night it loses its brightness : the moon " is the sun. 
But when it is dark there can't be any sunshine." It is true 
that the moon is bigger. But that is " because it has to 
brighten up the darkness. It has to be bigger because very 
often people come home in the dark and then the sun ( = the 
moon) shines." 

Deb (9) : " How did the sun start ? — With matches. — 
How did that make the sun ? — From the flames. — Where 
did the matches come from ? — From home." None the 
less he beheves the sun to be living and conscious. 

Gall (5) was born in 1918, which perhaps has some 
bearings on his cosmogony : " Where did the sun come 
from ? — It came in the war. — How did it begin ? — When 
the war ended. — Has there always been a sun ? — No. — 
How did it begin ? — A little ball came. — And then ? — It 
grew big. — Where did this httle ball come from ? — From 
the fire." 

Here is a case which is intermediate between the last 
cases and those of the second stage in the sense that the 
child begins to perceive the possibility that the sun and 
moon may have come from the clouds. But, in particular 
aspects, the idea becomes swamped by considerations Hke 
those in the preceding cases : — 

Hub (6|) : " Has the sun always been there ? — No, it 
began. — How ? — With fire. . . .—How did that start ? — 
With a match. — How ?— // was lighted. — How did that 
happen ?—By striking the match.— \<\\o struck it ? — A 
man. — What was his name ?— / don't know." The moon 
was made "in Heaven " that is to say " in the clouds. — 
How were the clouds able to make the moon ? — Because 
it is lighted.— VJhsii is 7— The cloud.— How 7— With fire. 
— Where does this fire come from ? — Frotn the match." 



ORIGIN OF THE SUN AND MOON 267 

" What lit it ? — A bit of stick with a red thing at the end." 
Hub is thinking here of the rockets sold on gala nights ; 
the moon for him is a cloud set alight by rockets fired 
off by people. The origin of the clouds also is artificial : 
" Where do the clouds come from ? — From the sky. — 
How did they start 1—In smoke.- — Where does the smoke 
come from ? — From stoves. — Does smoke make the moons 
then ? — Yes." 

As regards the stars, the explanations given in the 
first stage are the same as those we have just met with in 
regard to the sun and moon. 

J AC (6^) supposes that the stars are on fire and that 
they arc made by people. 

GiAMB [S^]. The stars are to show what the weather 
will be like : "If there are stars it is going to be fine ; 
when there are none it is going to rain." They are " made 
of light. — Where does this light come from ? — // is the 
lamp-posts outside which light them up, which makes them 
come." " How did they start ? — A man made them. — Do 
they know that they are shining ? — Yes." 

Fran (9) : " People took little stones and made them into 
little stars. 

Grang {y\) : What are the stars ? — Round things. — 
Made of what ? — Made of fire." It is God who made 
them. 

The reason for this artificialism lies evidently in the 
finalistic attitude which makes all children believe that 
the function of the stars is to indicate the weather. They 
serve " to show if it will be fine to-morrow " (Caud, 9:4). 
" What are the stars ? — They are to show if the next day 
will be fine " (Ceres, 9). 

It is not necessary to multiply examples. Let us 
examine briefly the significance of these facts before 
describing the second and third stages. It is clear that 
the detail, that is, the variation between one child and 
another can be regarded as romancing. But the central 
idea, that is the belief that the stars are made by man 
must be considered as a spantaneous mental impulse on 
the part of the child. For all that, there are two questions 
to be asked in connection with the homogeneity of this 
first stage. 



268 CHILD'S CONCEPTION OF THE WORLD 

In the first place, the existence of two groups of children 
has been observed, namely, those who speak of the 
" birth " of the sun, without defining the manner of this 
birth and those who describe with some measure of pre- 
cision the way in which the sun is made. It would appear 
that this constitutes two stages. But, on the one hand, 
there seems to be no dividing line of age between these 
two groups and, on the other, the children of both groups 
maintain that the sun and the moon are hving and con- 
scious. From the evidence in hand one is justified only 
in seeing two types of rephes characteristic of the one 
stage and having really the same meaning, it being re- 
membered that the manufacture of the sun with a match 
or a stone or with smoke is by no means incompatible 
with the conception which children of this age have of 
the birth of a living being. Unfortunately, we can only 
put this forward as an hypothesis without directly verify- 
ing it on our children, since it would be most indiscreet 
and dangerous from the pedagogical standpoint to ques- 
tion these children on the problem of the birth of human 
beings or even of animals. 

A second question may be raised. Sometimes the 
children attribute the making of the planets to the God 
of their catechism and sometimes simply to " a man." 
Does this mean two types or two stages ? We shall see 
later, when we come to discuss the ideas of M. Bo vet on 
the genesis of rehgious feeling, that on broad lines one can 
distinguish the following evolution. The child begins by 
attributing the distinctive qualities of the divinity — 
especially omniscience and almightiness — to his parents 
and thence to men in general. Then, as he discovers the 
hmits of human capacity, he transfers to God, of whom 
he learns in his religious instruction, the qualities which 
he leams to deny to men. On broad lines, then, there 
should be two periods, one of human artificialism and the 
other of divine artificialism. However, we do not believe 
that this distinction is a useful one at this juncture and 
particularly in connection with this question of the origin 



ORIGIN OF THE SUN AND MOON 269 

of the planets. The fact is that too many adult influences 
supervene likely to upset the spontaneous conceptions of 
the child and a gradation corresponding clearly to a definite 
age is not observable. 

This last circumstance raises a very serious difficulty, 
on the solution of which the whole question of child 
artificiaHsm turns. Is this artificiaHsm spontaneous or 
are the child's conception of the origins of things to be 
attributed to its religious training ? 

As far as those phenomena are concerned which we 
shall study shortly (origins of clouds, rivers, mountains, 
stones, etc.) the question hardly arises or, at all events, 
takes another form, for we shall see a native artificiaHsm 
in play of a kind so evidently spontaneous that the in- 
fluence of religious instruction clearly counts for httle. But 
where the sun and the moon and the stars are concerned 
a strong influence may be at work ^ since the planets are 
much nearer in association to a God Uving in Heaven 
than are the material objects located on the earth. But, 
in our opinion, religious instruction has influenced only 
a section of the children under our observation and even 
among those whose artificiaHsm is thus qualified it is 
limited to intensifying a tendency towards artificiaHsm 
already preexisting in the child and not created by it. 

On the one hand, our statistics indicate that children 
of the first stage attribute the making of the planets to 
man as often as to God. One might comment on this 
that the religious instruction may have been miscompre- 
hended, that the child has transferred to men that which 
was averred of God, or that imagination, stirred by teach- 
ing, has added to the data. One finds, however, that 
before any religious teaching has taken place, artificialist 
questions are being framed by children of 2 to 3 years old. 
' Who made the sun ? " asked Fran at 2 years 9 months. 
Furthermore, if religious teaching is to be held responsible 
for the artificiaHsm of children of four to six years of age, 
it wiU be agreed that in order to account for the deforma- 

^ See Genesis i. 14-18. 



270 CHILD'S CONCEPTION OF THE WORLD 

tion which has been observed there must be a powerfuJ 
natural inclination in the child to refer the making of 
material objects to man. The idea of the " birth " and 
the growing up of the planets, the belief that the four 
quarters of the moon are made afresh with each new 
moon or that they result from some artificial dissection 
of the moon, the notions concerning matches, flaming 
stones, rockets which set fire to clouds, etc., are so clearly 
manifestations of this tendency that they must surely be 
recognised as spontaneous. Finally, the facts quoted by 
W. James^notably the recollections of infancy of the 
deaf-mute, d'Estrella — indicate sufficiently that spon- 
taneous artificialism can exist in the child. 

On the other hand, even where we can trace distinctly 
the influences of religious teaching we can see that it is 
not positively accepted by the child but is assimilated 
in an original form. This being the case, there must have 
pre-existed a spontaneous tendency towards artificialism 
which is the sole explanation of the distortion which the 
teaching undergoes. The following is a good example of 
artificialist belief stimulated by religious teaching, but in 
which the information imparted to the child has been 
seriously disfigured by his own contribution to it : — 

Gava (8^) : The sun is ahve because " it keeps coming 
back. — Does it know when the weather is fine ? — Yes, 
because it can see it. — Has it eyes ? — Of course ! When it 
gets up it looks to see if it is bad weather and if it is it goes 
off somewhere else where it's fine. — Does it know that it's 
called the sun ? — Yes, it knows that we like it. It is very 
nice of it to make us warm. — Does it know its name ? — 
/ don't know. But sometimes it must hear us talking and 
then it will hear names and then it will know." AU this 
seems to be pure romancing, but as we shall see Gava 
almost identifies the sun with God : " When your daddy 
was little was there a sun then ? — Yes, because the sun 
was born before people so that people would be able to live. — 
How did it start ? — // was made in Heaven. It was a person 
who died and then ivent to Heaven. In Sunday School he is 
called God. — Where did this person come from ? — From 
inside the earth. — Where from ?— / don't know how he was 



ORIGIN OF THE SUN AND MOON 271 

made. — How did that make the sun ? — The person was 
very red and that made the light. Even in the morning before 
the sun is out, it is light all the same." In other words this 
person (Jesus Christ) has set fire to Heaven and this Hght 
made the sun. Gava is thinking probably of Christ's halo. 
He went on to tell us of a picture in which God was like 
the sun but with arms and legs ! " What is the sun made 
of ? — It's a big red ball. — Made of what ? — Of cloud . . . 
I don't know. — Did it start a long while ago ? — Since there 
have been people.— ^oi before ? — No, because there wouldn't 
have been anything to light. — Did it start at the same time 
as people or after ? — It started as soon as there were little 
children. — Why ? — So that children should have the fresh 
air. — If you were to speak to the sun would it hear ? — 
Yes, when you say your prayers. — Do you say your prayers 
to it ? — Yes. — Who told you to do that ? — At Sunday 
School I was told always to say my prayers to it." 

This remarkable example throws light on the three 
following cases : — 

KuF (10 ; i) said that the sun moves because something 
pushes it. " Is it in it or outside, this something ? — 
Inside. — What is it ? — It is God." 

One of our research workers remembers clearly having 
associated God with the sun for some years, either believing 
that God lived in or behind the sun, or else conceiving them 
as participating one with another. Every time she said 
her prayers in the evening she thought of the sun and in 
particular of the gap between two of the peaks in the 
Bernese Alps which were visible from her room and in 
which the sun used to set in winter. 

One of our collaborators remembers taking a walk 
with his father in the course of which they watched the 
sun setting. The father observed that it was only through 
the sun that we were all able to live. The child had a 
sudden revelation that the sun was something to do with 
God. He decided finally that though his father did not 
go to Church, etc., it was because he worshipped the sun 
or was bound to the sun by ties of reverence more strongly 
than he was to God. 

Such facts are very instructive. They reveal first of 
all how far adult instruction can be disfigured by the 
personal manner in which the child assimilates it, and, 



272 CHILD'S CONCEPTION OF THE WORLD 

furthermore, they reveal what are the laws of this assimi- 
lation. There are, in fact, three tendencies at the roots 
of these disfigurations and these three tendencies are 
(jomplementary. The first is the tendency to consider 
the planets as participating with mankind and with his 
will. As examples of participations with human will, or 
active participations, Gava considers the sim to originate 
in the need of himian beings for hght or perhaps in the 
need for providing fresh air for httle children, and our 
collaborator, mentioned above, considered the sun and his 
father as being bound together very closely by bonds of 
submission, commandment or protection. As examples 
of more material participations there are the three children 
already quoted who considered the sun as being more or 
less identical with God, whilst at the same time differing 
from him, as in the case of the deaf-mute quoted by 
James, who identified the moon with his own mother. 
(Chapter III, § 15.) These participations expand, in the 
first place, into artificiaUst myths. For example, Gava 
thinks the sun has come from Christ's halo. Later they 
expand into animism— as that the sun is living, con- 
scious, and endowed with will. In short, rehgious in- 
instruction is not received passively by the child but is 
disfigured and assimilated in conformity with three 
tendencies existing prior to this instruction. These latter 
are, precisely, the tendency to invent participations, the 
tendency towards artificialism and the tendency towards 
animism, whose significance has already been studied. 

We may thus conclude our analysis of the first stage 
by saying that the integral artificialism indicated therein 
is fundamentally spontaneous, though in certain cases it 
may be influenced by the education imparted by adults 
as far as concerns the detail of the child's conceptions. 
In neither case, however, is there contradiction between 
this artificiahsm and animism. 

§ 3. The Second and the Third Stages : the 
Origin of the Sun and Moon is first partly, then 
COMPLETELY, NATURAL. — The best proofs of the spontane- 



ORIGIN OF THE SUN AND MOON 273 

ous nature of the child's artificialist conceptions is their 
continuity and the gradual manner in which they dis- 
appear. Children of 10 to 11 years arrive independently 
at the idea that the planets have a natural origin, and 
between this third stage and the first there exists a series 
of intermediate cases. 

The intermediary cases constitute the second stage, 
the children who belong to this stage attributing to the 
planets an origin that is half artificial and half natural. 
In the majority of cases (that is to say, where the beliefs 
are spontaneous) the planets are held to have been made 
by a natural process but from substances of artificial 
origin. Thus, for example, the planets have come natur- 
ally from the clouds, but the clouds are made of the smoke 
from chimneys. In other cases, more or less influenced 
by adult instruction, planets are said to be the fire of 
volcanoes or mines, mankind having played some part in 
their formation. We may commence with these latter 
explanations which are the least interesting since adult 
instruction has played some part, even if only indirectly, 
in their formation. 

Font (6 ; 9) says that the sun is conscious, it is made 
of fire and it comes "from the mountain. — Where from ? — 
From the mines. — What is it ? — People go looking for coal 
in the ground." As to the moon : " // was made by the sun. 
— How ? — With the fire from the mountain. — Where does 
the moon come from ? — From the mountain. — What was 
there in the mountain ? — The sww— Where does the sun 
come from ? — From the mountain. — How did it begin ? 
— With fire. — And how did this fire begin ? — With matches. 
— And how did the mountain begin ? — With the earth 
. . . It was people who made it." 

Font illustrated his statement by a drawing showing 
half a moon coming out of a mountain. 

Marsal (mentally deficient) said : " / thought perhaps 
that the sun came out of volcanoes. When they were in 
eruption it made a ball of fire." The original thing about 
Marsal is that he beheved that human help was necessary 
to send the sun up in the air. It was " our ancestors " 
who threw the sun up in the air " like a balloon." 



274 CHILD'S CONCEPTION OF THE WORLD 

The principle of these explanations is quite clear. The 
child starts with two observed facts, namely, that the 
planets come from behind the mountain and that they 
are like fire. The sjoithesis of making the fire come from 
the mountain follows. If he has been taught about them 
the child will think of coal-mines or of volcanoes. He 
adds to this (and it is here that these examples show them- 
selves to be of the second stage, and not of the third) the 
idea that men have played a necessary part in the genesis 
of the planets. It is men who have made the mine or who 
have sent the sun into the air. 

Here are some examples of a type of reply, that is both 
more ordinary and more interesting, for the influence of 
instruction is not yet felt : — 

GiAMB (8J) is stiU in the first stage as far as the 
stars are concerned, but already in the second as far as 
the sun and the moon are concerned : " How did the sun 
begin ? — It was a big cloud that made it. — Where did this 
cloud come from ? — From the smoke. — And where did the 
smoke come from ? — From houses. — How did this cloud 
make the sun ? — They stuck to each other until they became 
round. — Are the clouds making the sun now ? — No, because 
it's already made. — How did the clouds make the sun 
shine ? — It's a light which makes it shine. — What Ught ? 
— A big light, it is someone in Heaven who has set fire to 
it." It can be seen how Giamb invokes an artificiahst 
myth as soon as he is embarrassed. What follows will 
show that he is ready to replace this myth by an ex- 
planation according to which the smoke flamed up in 
order to light the sun. " What is the sun made of ? — Of 
stone. — And the clouds ? — They are made of stone as well. 
— Why doesn't the stone fall down ? — No, it's the smoke 
from houses. — Then the sun is made of stone and smoke 
at the same time ? — No, nothing but smoke." (One feels 
that Giamb holds to these two explanations at the same 
time ; he is about to abandon the one according to which 
the sun is a stone which somebody has set fire to, and he 
is on the point of adopting definitely the other according 
to which the sun is a cloud of flaming smoke.) " How do 
the clouds make the sun bum ? — It's the smoke which 
m,akes it burn because there is fire in the smoke." The sun 
is conscious and deUberately follows us about. (See 



ORIGIN OF THE SUN AND MOON 275 

Giamb's case — Chapter VII, § 11.) After an interval 
he was asked : " What is the moon hke ? — Yellow. — 
What is it made of ? — Of cloud. — Where does this cloud 
come from ? — From the smoke when it gets yellow. — 
Where does this smoke come from ? — From the stove, 
sometimes when it is cold the smoke becomes yellow." (This 
is true that in winter smoke has a yeUow-greenish tint.) 
" How does the smoke make the moon ? — The chimney 
smokes and it is sometimes yellow, sometimes white." 

Gava (8^), who is in the first stage as far as the 
sun is concerned, belongs to the second stage for his 
explanation of the quarters of the moon : "It was made 
by the air. — How was that ? — Perhaps it was clouds 
which had not melted away and then they made a big 
round thing." The air and the clouds are practically the 
same thing for Gava. A few months later he was asked : 
" What is the moon made of ? — Perhaps it is clouds, the 
clouds were small and then they were squeezed together and 
that made a ball. — Has there been a mOon for a long while ? 
— Since things began living " {cp. Roy, see §1). " How did 
the moon begin ? — First of all it was quite tiny then it grew, 
it's other clouds which have come. — Where did they come 
from ? — It was the steam which went up into the sky when 
things were being cooked. — Is the moon ahve ? — It must be 
because it comes back every evening." 

Brul (8^) : " What is the sun made of ? — Of clouds. 
— How did it begin ? — It began by being a ball. — Where 
did this ball come from ? — From the clouds. — What are 
the clouds made of ? — Of smoke. — Where does this smoke 
come from ? — From the houses." 

\ Lug (12 ; 3) : " How did the sun start ? — It started 
with fire. — What fire ? — From the fire in the stove. — What 
is there in the stove ? — Smoke. — Well, how did it happen ? 
— The smoke went up and then it began, it caught fire. — 
Why did it catch fire ? — Because it was very warm." 
When asked if he were sure of all this, he replied : " Not 
quite. — What is the sun ? — A great ball of fire. — How did 
it begin ? — (After long reflection) With smoke. — What 
smoke ?—From houses." He gave the same explanation 
for the moon. 

These explanations are very interesting because of their 
spontaneous characters, they start from true observation, 
that is, that the moon by day when it is white and spotted 
with shadows looks hke a httle cloud. The resemblance 



276 CHILD'S CONCEPTION OF THE WORLD 

is particularly striking when one only sees a half-moon, 
that is, when according to a child, the moon is in the act of 
making itself. Since children of this stage (8 to 9 years 
on an average) assert that clouds come from smoke, the 
origin of the sun and moon seems quite clear to them. 

As to stars, children of this stage explain them in the 
same manner or else they suppose them to have come from 
the sun or the moon as do children of the third stage. 

Between the second and the third stage, there is a com- 
plete continuity. If that part of the explanation be 
cancelled according to which the clouds are said to issue 
from the chimneys, an entirely natural explanation of the 
origin of the sun and moon is left, and it is this explana- 
tion which is given in the third stage. This we find, on 
the average, after the ages of 9-1 1, though sometimes 
earher. Here are some typical examples. The sun and 
moon have come from the clouds and the clouds them- 
selves are compressed air or steam : — 

Not (10 ; 0) : " What is the sun made of ? — Of 
flames. — Where do these flames come from ? — From the 
sun. — How did they begin, did something make them ? 
— They made themselves. — How ? — Because it was warm. — 
How did they begin ? — The sun was made of flames of fire. 
— How ? — Because it was warm. — Where ?^In the sky. — 
Why was it warm ? — Lt was the air." The sun then is 
the product of incandescent air, and according to Not, 
the moon is also made of air. 

Re (8|) : " How did the sun begin? — It came. — How? 
— Because it moved. — Where did it come from ? — From 
the Jura. — What is the sun made of ? — There are. lots 
of little clouds. — What are clouds made of ? — They are 
all squeezed together. — Where did these clouds come 
from when the sun began ? — From the sky. — What are 
the clouds ? — It's when there are lots of red things (the little 
red sunset clouds). — Where ? — On the Jura." Re claims 
to have seen these clouds in the evening, and it is true 
that from Geneva one sees the sunset over the Jura. As 
to the moon : " How did it begin ? — In a round thing. — 
A round thing made of what ? — Of little red clouds. — Where 
did the clouds come from ? — From the Jura. — And before 
that ? — From the mountain." Re does not think that 



ORIGIN OF THE SUN AND MOON 277 

the clouds have anything to do with smoke. They made 
themselves alone in the sky which itself is made " of blue 
clouds." He regards the sun and moon as both living 
and conscious in spite of the quite natural manner of their 
formation. 

Chal (9:5): " How did the sun begin ? — (Thought- 
fully) First it was small, then it got big. — Where did this 
little sun come from ? — It must have been made by the 
clouds. — What is the sun made of ? — Of air." As to the 
clouds they also come from the air. 

AuD (9 ; 8) : " What is the sun made of ? — Of clouds. — 
How did the sun begin ? — To begin with, it was a ball and 
then it caught fire." The clouds from which the sun was 
born also came from the sky, the sun is, therefore, " a 
cloud from the sky." 

Ant (8|) : " How did the moon begin ? — The stars 
ran into each other, and that made the moon. — And where 
do the stars come from ? — They are flames which have 
always been there from the beginning." 

Gerv (ii) : " The sun and the moon are the same thing, 
when the sun sets it makes the moon which shines during 
the night." The moon seems to Gerv bigger than the 
sun : " When the sun sets Fve seen it get much bigger (in 
order to change itself into the moon)." Gerv was asked if 
he had never seen the sun and the moon together during 
the day, he said he had, but that it was an illusion. What 
seems to be the moon is just a white shape, and is only 
the reflection of the sun on the sky. As to the origin of 
the sun, Gerv said : " The moon ( = the sun) is made of rays 
of light heaped up together and that makes the moon. Some- 
times it's big, sometimes it's small, according to the month. 
It must be made of fire." 

All these cases reveal a remarkable effort to explain 
the sun and moon in terms of atmospheric condensation 
or of clouds, and by the spontaneous combustion of these 
condensed bodies. Making allowance for circumstances, 
one can see the likeness between these conceptions and 
the theories of the pre-Socratic thinkers. 

The foregoing cases seem to embrace only information 
that has been observed and acquired entirely by the child. 
The following cases, on the other hand, embody information 
due to contact with adults : — 



278 CHILD'S CONCEPTION OF THE WORLD 

Mart and Schm have learned that electricity is " a 
current," and that there is electricity in clouds. 

Jean, Ant, etc., have learned that there was fire in the 
earth and that this fire finds its way out through volcanoes, 
etc. These children draw from such knowledge their 
explanations of the origin of the sun and moon, which are 
consequently partly and indirectly influenced by adults. 
They must be quoted for they contain elements of original 
reflection which are of the same type as the explanation 
in terms of atmospheric condensation and of clouds. 

Mart (9:5): " How did the sun begin ? — / don't know, 
it's not possible to say. — You are right there, but we can 
guess. Has there always been a sun ? — No. It's the elec- 
tricity which has always been growing more and more. — 
Where does this electricity come from ? — From under the 
earth, from water. — What is electricity ? — It's the current." 
" Can a current of water make electricity ? — Yes. — What 
is this current made of }—It's made of steam." (Steam, 
electricity and current seem to him to be all the same 
thing.) " How did the electricity make the sun ? — It is 
current which has escaped. — -How has it grown ? — It's the 
air which has stretched, the electricity has been made bigger 
by the air." 

Schm (8 ; 8) : " How did the sun begin ? — With fire, 
it's a ball of fire which gives light. — Where does the fire 
come from ? — From the clouds. — How does that happen ? 
— It's electricity in the clouds. — Do you think that some- 
body made the sun ? — No, it came all alone." The sun is 
ahve and conscious. 

It will be seen that these cases, apart from the language 
used are very similar to the preceding ones : for Mart, 
the sun is burning air, and for Schm it is a glowing cloud. 

Two cases follow in which the sun is said to have come 
out of volcanoes or out of the earth : — 

Jean (8 ; 6) : " How did the sun begin ? — In a ball of 
fire. — Where did it come from ? — From the earth. — How 
did that happen ? — It went up in steam. — Where did it 
come from ? — Out of the ground." 

Ant (8|) : " It (the sun) came out of the earth. — 



ORIGIN OF THE SUN AND MOON 279 

How did that happen ? — A flame came out of the earth 
and that made the sun. — Are there flames in the earth ? — 
Yes. — Where are they ? — In volcanoes." 

In these cases acquired knowledge has been used, but 
in an original way which at all events shows the tendency 
of children of this stage to explain the origin of the sun 
and moon in an entirely natural process. 

Let us now pass to explanations of the origin of the 
stars. Children of the third stage in thinking of the stars 
instinctively seek similar natural explanations, as a result 
the stars are said to be emanations of the moon or of 
hghtning, etc. 

Tacc (9:7): " What are the stars ? — They are made of 
fire. — How does that happen ? — They are little sparks which 
have collected together and made a star." These sparks come 
from a fire in the sky, and the fire " came all by itself." 

Deb (9 ; 0) : " What are the stars ? — Little hits of 
lightning. — What is lightning ? — It comes when there is 
thunder. — What makes the lightning ? — When two clouds 
meet each other." 

Stoeck (ii ; o) : " How did the stars begin ? — With 
the sun." 

Marc (9 ; 5) : " Where did the stars come from ? — 
From the sun." 

Of course, a child is not necessarily in the third stage 
at the same time for the stars, the sun and the moon. 
In general, it seems that a natural explanation of the stars 
is the first to appear. 

Observation seems to show that the more advanced 
children are, the less easily they formulate a hypothesis 
on the origin of the sun and moon. It is only for the little 
ones that everything is quite simple. Between 11 and 
12, a child very often rephes " It isn't possible to say," 
or " I have no idea," etc. Artificialism, even when it has 
become immanent, as in the third stage where constructive 
activity is withdrawn from man to be attributed to nature 
itself, leads thus to a crisis and a tentative agnosticism 
succeeds an over-audacious cosmogony. 

It should be observed that up to the end animism is 



28o CHILD'S CONCEPTION OF THE WORLD 

intimately connected with artificialism. Children of the 
third stage are very interesting in this respect. About 
half of them are no longer animistic at all whereas more 
than three-quarters of the children of the second stage 
were still so. Natural explanations have destroyed their 
belief in the consciousness of the planets. As to the other 
half of the children they remain animistic but their 
animism is in some degree submerged. The planets are 
no longer concerned with us, they no longer follow us, 
etc., but they remain conscious of their own movements. 
Finally, in certain cases, one can see the disappear- 
ance of an animism which is explicitly bound up with 
artificialism. 

BoucH (ii ; lo), for example, is a sceptical chUd who 
complains of having been deceived by grown-ups : '' They 
have stuffed me up with stories," he kept on saying, and 
he is particularly careful as to what he himself admits. 
He was asked if the sun knew that it went forward, he 
replied, " If there is a God, the sun knows it, hut if there 
isn't, it doesn't." 

This reply is very curious and shows well enough that 
the consciousness with which things are endowed is part 
of the belief in a general system. If God controls things 
they are conscious, otherwise they are acting mechanically. 

§ 4. The Quarters of the Moon. — It is best to con- 
sider separately this problem of the phases of the moon 
on which we have already touched in dealing with the 
origin of the sun and moon. It will serve moreover as a 
control in showing us if the children's explanations corre- 
spond by age with the gradations that we have already 
established. There is no particular reason why it should, 
and we can consider this new problem as partly independ- 
ent of the preceding one, that is to say as constituting a 
genuine control. 

In actual fact, three stages emerge analogous to those 
already established, they are integral artificialism, qualified 
artificialism, and natural explanation. 

During the first stage, the phases of the moon are re- 



ORIGIN OF THE SUN AND MOON 281 

garded as being either moons which have been born or 
moons which have been cut up by people. These are two 
forms of integral artificialism. 

The cases of Roy (6 years), of Gaud (6| years), and of 
Purr (8 ; 8 years) (see §§ i and 2) may be recalled first. 
In these the quarters of the moon were said to be moons 
which were beginning, that is which had just been made 
and which were growing just like babies. It is not 
necessary to return to these cases. 

As to the belief according to which the quarters are 
moons which have been cut up by people, here are three 
examples : — 

Fran (9:0): " What is the moon hke ? — Quite 
round. — Always ? — No, sometimes it's only a half. — Why 
only a half ? — Because sometimes it has been cut. — Do you 
really beheve that ? — Yes I do. — Why has it been cut ? — 
So that it should look prettier. — Who cut it ? — People. — 
Can the moon come round again ? — No, afterwards they go 
and look for the other half of the moon and then they make it 
whole again." 

BuL (7I ): " It was cut up hy people to make half amoon." 

Dou (5 ; 0) : " It must have been cut in tivo." 

As to the second stage, it shows a mixture of artificialism 
and natural explanation : — 

Hub (6 J) : "Is the moon always round ? — No. — 
What's it like ? — Sometimes a crescent, it is very worn out. 
■ — Why ? — Because it has done a lot of lighting.— How 
does it come round again ? — Because it is made again. — 
How ? — In the sky." 

Caud (9:4): " Does the moon see you ? — Yes, some 
days it is round and sometimes it's only half or quarter. — 
Why ? — God makes it round or half in order to count the days 
(notice the way in which the child has disfigured an ex- 
planation which obviously was presented quite other- 
wise).- — It has been cut ? — No, it makes itself round and 
then afterwards in half." 

In both cases a union may be seen, which is in no way 
contradictory in a child, of a natural process which 
involves being worn out or cut up, and of a controlling or a 
constructive action which is of a quite human order. In 
the third stage, this second fact is eliminated and an 
entirely natural explanation is sought for the phenomenon. 
This explanation presents itself in two forms, character- 



282 CHILD'S CONCEPTION OF THE WORLD 

istic of two successive sub-stages. At first the moon is 
regarded as having cut itself in pieces or having been 
cut up by the wind by a process of dynamism in which 
are united an artificiaiism and an animism which have 
become entirely immanent : — 

Mart (9 ; 5) : " Why is the moon in quarters ? — There 
is only half, the wind has cut it into pieces. — Why ? — / 
don't know. — Where is the other half ? — Fallen on the 
ground. — Can you see it ? — No, it makes the rain (the moon 
being a cloud there is nothing strange in the fact that it 
turns into rain). — Is it the same moon which comes round 
again or is it another ? — It's the same, it gets big again. — 
How ? — The wind makes it get big again." 

AcK (8 ; 7) : " Sometimes there is a full moon, sometimes 
quarters. — How does that happen ? — // divides itself up all 
alone. — And then what happens to the rest of the moon ? 
— It is hidden by the clouds. — And when there are no clouds ? 
— It is hidden in heaven by God. — Why does it divide itself 
up }— Because it wants to make the weather bad, and when 
there is a full moon it wants to make good weather." 

Re (8 ; o) : " How are the quarters of the moon 
made ? — There is nothing but a little bit left of it. — Where 
is the rest ? — On the Jura. — How does that happen ? — 
It gets broken. — How ? — It gets unstuck. — Does it get un- 
stuck by itself, or is there someone who does it ? — By 
itself. — How does it grow again afterwards ? — It comes to- 
gether again. — How ? — It joins up with the other piece. — 
Does it know that it wants to join up with the other 
piece ? — Yes. — Why is it not always round ? — Because it 
makes itself small. — Why ? — Because it doesn't keep itself 
big all the time. — Why ? — Because it is cold after it rains."_ 

Not (10 ; o) : " Half of it goes to one side, and the 
other to the other side. — Why ? — To show what weather it is 
going to be. — How does that happen ? — Because it gets 
warmer, it means that it will be good weather or bad weather." 
The moon thus acts of its own accord and consciously. 

These cases are interesting in several respects. It is 
clear that they are influenced by adult suggestions, in 
particular where the child knows that the quarters of the 
moon show what the weather is going to be. But these 
adult suggestions have been assimilated in an original 
manner, and two curious reactions may be noted. First, 



ORIGIN OF THE SUN AND MOON 283 

the confusion between the sign and the cause, the moon 
both causes the weather and foretells it, causing it because 
it foretells it. Secondly, there is the finalistic dynamism 
with which the child endows the moon. The moon, the 
wind, the sky, and the clouds are each moved by an in- 
ternal force tending towards a common end, and when 
they act on each other it is by intelligent collaboration 
and not in accordance with a mechanical system. 

The second type of explanation of the quarters of the 
moon found during the third stage is more positive. 
The phenomenon is the result either of the pivotal move- 
ment of the moon which gives the illusion of its being cut 
in pieces or else it is due to the obstruction of a cloud. 
The moon thus ceases to take part in the process. 

Lug (12 ; 3) : " What is the moon like ? — Round. — 
Always ? — JSIo. — What else does it look like ? — It's cut 
through the middle, in the evening it's round, and in the day 
it's cut in two.— \^h.y ? — Because it's day-time. — Where is 
the other half ? — Gone away.- — Where to ? — To another 
country where it's night. — How does that happen ? — It has 
to go to another country. — How does it happen ? — Half of 
it goes away to another country. — How does that happen ? 
— It goes away when it's day-time here. — Does it cut itself 
up ? — No. — Then what happens ? — It lights up the 
countries where it's night whilst it is day here. — Is it always 
whole ? — Yes. — Is it never in half ? — Yes, in the day-time 
because it has turned round (!) — Why can't you see it 
round during the day ? — Because you see it from the side. 
(Lug means to say " in profile.") — What does that mean ? 
— At night it shines ; and hy day it turns away and lights 
another country." " Is the moon round like a ball ? — 
No, like a cake." Though he hesitates to admit the hypo- 
thesis according to which the moon divides itself up, 
Lug puts forward this remarkable explanation, which 
seems entirely spontaneous, that the moon is like a cake 
changing its shape according to the direction in which it 
is turned. 

ScHM (8 ; 8) :^ " What is there funny about the moon 
sometimes ? — It's round and then it turns into a crescent. — 
How does that happen ? — When it gets big it makes it cold. 
— Where is the other part ? — You can't see it, it's hidden 
by clouds, but it's there all the time. — And when there are 



284 CHILD'S CONCEPTION OF THE WORLD 

no clouds ? — There are some really all the time. — How 
does the moon get big again ? — The clouds go away. — Do 
they know they've got to go away 7— The other part of the 
moon lights up and then it shines through the clouds." 

Carp (8, 7) : " It's the clouds which hide it. — And what 
happens to the other half ? — It's behind the clouds. — Is it 
cut ? — No, it's behind the clouds." 

It is not possible to say if these last cases (of which we 
have found many examples) are spontaneous or not. 
They seem to show a degree of spontaneity. As to the 
case of Lug, it may be compared with the examples we 
have seen in Chapter VII, § 2, in which the moon follows 
us without actual movement by turning and sending its 
rays after us, etc. (See cases of Sart, Lug and Brul.) 

To conclude we can now assume that the explanations of 
the phases of the moon confirm the scheme which was put 
forward in connection with the explanations of the origin 
of the sun and moon. An integral artificialism, derived 
from primitive participations, gives place to a qualified 
artificialism, and this is finally replaced by natural ex- 
planations at first dynamic and finalist (that is immanent 
artificiahsm) which ultimately become more and more 
mechanical. 



CHAPTER IX 

METEOROLOGY AND THE ORIGIN 
OF WATER 

It is obvious that, like the primitive, the child makes no 
distinction between astronomy and meteorology. The sun 
and moon are of the same order as the clouds, lightning 
and the wind. We shall therefore pursue our research by 
studying explanations concerning the origin of other 
celestial bodies, and adding to these, explanations of the 
origin of water. 

As was the case with the sun and moon, a large number 
of spontaneous questions asked by children has convinced 
us that the problems we are about to set are in no way 
foreign to the child's natural interests- The following 
cases prove as much : — 

These questions are taken from the collection made by 
Stanley Hall.^ At 5 years old: " Why does it rain? — 
Where does it come from ?" At 6 : " What is fog ? — Who 
made it ?" At 7 : " Where does snow come from? " — Who 
makes thunder and lightning ? — What is thunder ? — What is 
it for ? — Who makes thunder, etc?" At 8 : " Who makes 
the snow ? At 11, concerning a river : " / want to know 
what has made it so big. It hasn't rained much." 

From the material collected by Mr Klingebiel (to be 
published shortly), we quote the following at the age of 
3 years 7 months : " Tell me, Mamma, is it God who turns 
the tap in the sky so that the water runs through the holes 
in the floor of the sky ? " At 3 ; 8 : " Tell me, Mamma, 

did God make the sea at X and that at Z too ? He 

must have a big watering-can, then." 

In the questions asked by Del (see Language and 

^ Pedag. Semtn., 1903 (X). 
285 . 



286 CHILD'S CONCEPTION OF THE WORLD 

Thought, Chapter V) at the age of 6^ : " Why (doesn't 
the lake go as far as Berne) ? — Why isn't there a spring in 
our garden ? (p. 226) — How do you make one (a spring) ? 
— Do you need a spade as well to make a spring ? — But how 
is the rain made in the sky ? — Are there pipes or streams for 
it to run in ? — Why (does thunder happen of its own accord) ? 
— Is it true (that is does it happen of its own accord) ? — 
But there are not the things for making fire in the sky. — 
Why do you see lightning better at night ? (p. 228) — Who 
makes the Rhone go so fast?" (p. 264) etc., etc. 

There is also James's deaf-mute, d'Estrella, already 
quoted in Chapter VII (par. 10) and in Chapter VIII, 
Introduction, who provides many interesting recollec- 
tions : — 

When d'Estrella looked at the clouds he imagined them 
to have been made by God's big pipe (d'Estrella referred 
to God as the " great strong man, hidden behind the hills, 
who used to throw the sun into the air every morning " ; see 
Chapter VIII, Introduction). Why? — Because he had 
often noted with childish admiration the eddies of smoke 
rising from a pipe or cigar. The fantastic shapes of the 
clouds as they floated by in the air would often fill him 
with wonder. What powerful lungs God must have ! 
When it was misty the chOd supposed it must be God's 
breath in the cold morning. Why ? — Because he had 
often observed his own breath in such weather. When it 
rained he was quite sure God must have taken a large 
mouthful of water and spat it out from his huge mouth 
in the form of a shower. Why ? — Because he had fre- 
quently remarked the skill with which the Chinese of 
San Francisco thus watered the linen to bleach it. 

Such identifications of clouds with smoke and of mist 
and rain with the breath or the saliva may appear curious. 
We shall however find many instances. 

The above questions and recollections already suggest 
that we shall find the same explanations given concerning 
meteorology and water as were found with the sun and 
the moon. The questions asked by the youngest children 
and the recollections of the deaf-mute are frankly artifi- 
cialist. To ask " who made " or " what is it for " is in 
fact to suggest the answer in the questions. On the other 



METEOROLOGY 287 

hand as the children become older the more their questions 
show them to be seeking a physical explanation. We may 
therefore expect to find again the same process of evolution 
that was found in the explanations concerning the sun 
and moon : the change from an integral artificialism to 
a more and more positive explanation. 

We shall exclude from this chapter a certain number of 
questions that will be discussed later in the study of 
dynamics as it presents itself to the child (see Causalite 
Physique) for they are related rather to the causes of 
movement than to the origin of objects. Such are for 
example the question of the waves, of the movement of 
rivers, the movement of clouds, etc. But it is principally 
the great question of the origin of the wind and the air — 
a question that is inseparable from the study of movement 
— that we prefer to reserve for a special chapter {Causaliti 
Physique, Chapters I-II). 

§ I. The Sky, — Questions concerning the sky, the 
night and clouds form a whole that can only be broken 
up artificially. We are forced however to start with the 
analysis of one of these terms for fear that too much will 
obscure the research. Moreover, in the continuous series 
of explanations that lead from integral artificialism to a 
natural explanation it is equally impossible without 
arbitrariness to distinguish the three stages that were 
estabUshed in the case of the sun and moon. However 
it seems useful to maintain the plan, for a landmark of 
some sort is as indispensable as it is arbitrary. In 
psychology, as in zoology and botany, classes and species 
are necessary but they depend as much on the free choice 
of the classifier as on the data to be classified. 

For the youngest children (2-6 years), the sky is situated 
somewhere near the height of the roofs or mountains. 
" Do they go right to the sky ? " Del asked about some 
fireworks {Language and Thought, p. 209) . He also regards 
the sky as touching the horizon. ^ Thus at 3 years old. 
An saw a cow in the distance in a field and asked " It's 

^ Cf. Sully, Etudes sur I'enfance (trad. Monod), p. 14 



288 CHILD'S CONCEPTION OF THE WORLD 

over there near the sun, isn't it ? " In these circumstances 
it is natural that the sky at first gives the child the 
impression of being a ceiling or a sohd arch and likewise 
of having been made either by men or by God. 

The following are examples of the first stage during 
which there is integral artificiahsm : — 

Gal (5) : The sky is " of stone." It isn't flat but is 
" round." It is God who made it. 

Gaud (6 ; 8) : It's God who made it. — What of ? — 
Earth. It is blue because God " made it blue." 

AcK (8 ; 7) : It is God who made it. " He took some 
earth." 

Bar (9 ; 5, backward) : "It is made of big stones. Big 
slabs of stone. — Why doesn't the sky fall ? — Because if it 
fell, it would tumble on the houses and people would be 
killed. — What prevents it falhng ? — It is well stuck. — 
Why ? — Because the slabs of stone are fastened to some- 
thing." 

But it also happens that the sky is regarded as a crust 
of hard clouds which prepares the way for the explanations 
of the second stage. 

Fran (9, backward) : The sky "is a kind of cloud. — 
How did the sky begin ? . . . — It is they ( = men) who 
made the sky. — How ? — They found a lot of clouds and then 
the men (les Messieurs) took hold of them to press them hard 
together, then they said, ' We'll see if they will stick.' — Is 
the sky hard ? — Yes." As for these clouds, they come 
from the smoke of the houses. The " material cause " 
and the " efficient cause " of the sky are thus both 
artificial. 

BuL (7 ; 6) supposes that the sky is hard. It is made 
" of air " or " of blue." It has been made by men. 

The youngest children (3-4) usually say that the sky 
is made " of blue " ; the blue then later becomes either 
of stone or earth or glass or of air or clouds. But during 
the first stage the sky is almost always conceived as solid. 

During the second stage the child makes an effort to 
find a physical explanation for the origin of the sky. The 
" efficient cause " of the form of the sky thus ceases to be 
artificiaUst. But the matter of which the sky is made 



METEOROLOGY 289 

remains dependent on human activity ; the sky is of 
clouds and the clouds have been produced by the chimneys 
of houses, boats, etc. 

Gava (8|) : " What is the sky made of ? — It's a sort 
of cloud that comes. — How ?- — The steam from the boats goes 
up to the sky and then it makes a great blue streak. — Is the 
sky hard or not ? — It's like a kind of earth. — Made of 
what ? — It's like earth which has lots of little holes ; and 
then there are the clouds, they go through the little holes, then 
when it rains, the rain falls through the little holes. — How 
did it be^n ? . . . — When there was earth, that perhaps 
made houses, and then there was smoke, and that made the 
sky. — Is the sky alive ? — Yes, because if it were dead, why 
then it would fall down {cp. the definition of life in terms 
of activity). — Does the sky know it holds the sun or not ? 
— Yes, because it sees the light too. — How does it see it ? — 
Well it knows when the sun rises and when it sets. — How ? 
— Because since it was born ( = the sky) it has known when 
the sun was there and now it can know when the sun rises 
and when it sets." The sky is thus a great living cloud, 
but a cloud that has been produced by the smoke from 
houses and boats. 

GiAMB (8|) : " What is the sky made of ? — Of air. — 
Why is it that the sky is blue ? — It's when the trees are 
sicinging they make the air go up high (we shall frequently 
meet this belief concerning the origins of wind ; see 
Causaliti' Physique, Chapter II, par, i) — But why is it 
blue ? — Sometimes the smoke is blue and it falls on to trees 
and that makes the sky blue." 

Graxg (7 ; 6) : " What is the sky made of ? — Clouds. 
— And when it's blue, is it made of clouds? — Yes." 
But the sky is solid : God hves above it. The clouds 
joined together without being helped by anyone but 
they came from houses. They are alive. 

During the third stage the child succeeds in freeing 
himself from all artificiahsm. The sky is made up of air 
or of clouds. It has come into being of its own accord. 
The clouds of which it is made are of natural origin. 
During this stage, moreover, the idea of a solid arch is in 
course of disappearance. 

Rey (8) bridges the transition between the second and 
third stage. The sky is still a solid arch : " It's hard." 



290 CHILD'S CONCEPTION OF THE WORLD 

But it has been formed of its own accord from materials 
of natural origin : " There are a lot of little clouds packed 
together. — What are they made of ? — They are thick. — 
What is the sky made of ? — It is blue. — And made of 
what ? — Of clouds. — And the clouds ? — They are blue." 
" Sometimes there are some that are blue." As to the origin 
of these clouds Rey argues in a circle : the sky makes 
the clouds and the clouds make the sky. " What are 
clouds made of ? — Of sky. — And the sky ? — Of clouds. — 
. . ." etc. 

Tracc (9) : " What is the sky ? — It's clouds. — Clouds 
of what colour ? — Blue, black, grey or white. — Can you 
touch the sky ? — No, it's too high. — If you could go up 
high, could you touch it ? — No. — Why not ? — Because 
it's air, it's clouds. — What are the clouds made of ? — Dust. 
— Where do they come from ? — From the ground. The 
dust goes up. — What holds it together ? — It's the wind 
that keeps it together." 

Lug (12 ; 3) : " What is the sky ? — It's a cloud. — 
What colour ? — White. — Is blue sky a cloud ? — Of course 
not ! — What is it ? — It's air. — How did the sky begin ? — 
With air. — Where did the air come from ? — From the 
ground. — What is there above the sky ? — It's empty." 

Stoeck (ii) : " What is the sky made of ? — Of clouds, 
and of water and of air. — And what makes the blue ? — 
Water. — Why is it blue ? — It's the water that makes it. — 
Where does the water come from ? — Mist." 

These conceptions undoubtedly show adult influence. 
If the children had never asked the question they couldn't 
at the ages of 10 or 11 know that the sky is made of air 
or that it is not solid. But the entire interest lies jn 
knowing how the children assimilated what they heard. 
In this respect a marked evolution can be seen as they 
grow older : a decrease in artificialism at the expense of 
a progressive search for explanations which identify 
elements (air, smoke, clouds, water), such explanations 
being not unlike those of the pre-Socratics. 

The best proof that these results are more or less 
independent of environment is that they are found else- 
where than at Geneva. Mile Rodrigo has been kind 
enough to set the same questions to some hundred Spanish 



METEOROLOGY 291 

children between the ages of 5 and 11 at Madrid and at 
Santander. Apart from several vague answers and others 
due to conceptions that had been taught, the explanations 
were the same as those found at Geneva. On an average 
they are somewhat backward in relation to the answers 
obtained in Switzerland, but the order of succession of the 
answers is the same. Calculating the average age for each 
of the three types of explanation, gives 7 years old for 
explanations according to which the sky is made of stones, 
earth, bricks, etc., 8| years old for conceptions according 
to which it is of cloud, and 10 years old for explanations 
which embrace air. 

§ 2. The Cause and the Nature of Night. — This 
group of conceptions and explanations is much more 
independent of the child's education than has been the 
case of those considered so far. It is therefore of some 
interest to see if the process of evolution arrived at in the 
preceding inquiries still holds for the explanation of night. 
It will be shown that such is indeed the case. It is possible 
in fact to distinguish four stages in the evolution of this 
explanation. During the first stage the child gives a 
purely artificiahst explanation of night, but without 
stating how it is made. During the second and third 
stages the explanation is half artificiahst and half physical : 
night is a great black cloud, moved by human powers, 
and which fills the whole atmosphere (second stage), or 
which simply blocks out the day (third stage). Finally, 
in the fourth stage, night explains itself by the disappear- 
ance of the sun. 

In the first stage the child limits itself essentially to 
explaining the night by its use, which clearly illustrates 
the starting-point of all artificiahsm. If he is pressed to 
follow up his finahst explanation with a causal explanation, 
he will then call in men or God, but without stating how 
such a phenomenon occurs. 

MoR (5) : " Why does night come ? — Because it is dark. 
— Why is it dark }— Because it is evening. Little children 
ought to go to bed. — Where does night come from ? — The 



292 CHILD'S CONCEPTION OF THE WORLD 

sky. — How does the sky make the night ? — Through God. 
— What makes it dark ? — / don't know." 

Leo (7 1) : " Where does night come from ? — The sky. 
— How is the night made in the sky ? — Because there's a 
watch, and in the morning it points right up and in the 
evening it's let down. — Why ? — It's down because night-time 
is coming. — And what does that do ? — Because it's night. 
— What does the night do when the hand points down ? 
— (The night comes) because there's the hand pointing 
down. — Have you known that long ? . . . — Because at 
home there's a sort of lamp, then a hand ; when it falls 
that makes it night." As far as we could understand this 
" sort of lamp " was a meter that was turned on at night 
when the electricity was used. " How did this watch 
begin ? — God made it. — What is God ? — A person. — What 
does he do ? — He works. — Why ? — For children." It is 
clear that for Leo the movement of the hand of a 
meter-clock is both the sign and the cause of the 
night. Leo takes no account of the " how " of this 
phenomenon. 

Gill (7) : It is " a^ night that we go to sleep, then it is all 
dark. — Why is it dark ? — To go to bed. — Why does it 
become dark ? — It is the sky that becomes dark, that makes 
everything dark." 

Delesd (7 ; 8) : " What is it that makes it all dark at 
night ? — It is because we go to sleep. — If you go to sleep in 
the afternoon, is it dark then ? — No, sir. — Then what 
will make it dark this evening ? . . ." Despite this 
objection Delesd maintained that it is because we sleep 
that it becomes night. 

These answers are of great interest. Their common 
basis lies in declaring that it is night because we sleep. 
In certain cases (Gill, for example) the association appears 
to be simply teleological : night comes so that we can go 
to bed. But in other cases, and probably in the most 
primitive, sleep is both the final and the efficient cause of 
night. There is precausahty. The child is unconcerned 
with the " how " : he simply seeks the purpose which 
causes night, and this purpose is evidently the fact that 
children sleep. Then, under the influence of the questions, 
the child completes this precausal association by an 
artiftcialist myth. Such is the case of Leo, but it is evident 



METEOROLOGY 293 

that the myth is nothing but an addition to the precausal 
association " night is produced by sleep." 

During the second stage the precausal connection 
between night and sleep remains the principal factor in 
the child's explanation but the " how " as to the formation 
of night has been found. Night is a great black cloud 
which comes and fills the atmosphere and is due to the 
action of men or of God. But it is clear that the pioblem 
is merely deferred. How does man's need or his desire 
for sleep succeed in producing the big black cloud. For 
this the child has no thought. 

Van (6) : " What is night ? — When we sleep. — Why is 
it dark at night ? — Because we sleep better, and so that it 
shall be dark in the rooms. — Where does the darkness come 
from ? — Because the sky becomes grey.- — What makes the 
sky become grey ? — The clouds become dark. — How is 
that ? — God makes the clouds become dark." 

Due (6) : " Why is it dark at night ? — Because it is 
time to go to bed. — What makes it get dark ? — The clouds 
make it. — Did you know that ? — Fve found it out now. — 
How do they do it ? — Because some of them are dark. — 
You've already seen the moon and the stars at night. Were 
there clouds those times ? — Yes, sir. — Are there always 
clouds at night ? — No. — And when there aren't any clouds 
does the night come of its own accord ? . . . — Why is it 
dark when there aren't any clouds ? — It's the clouds that 
make it." A few weeks later : " What makes night ? — 
Because clouds come that are all black. — Are there always 
clouds when it's night ? — Yes. — And why is it light when 
it is light '^—So that we can see." 

BouRG (9) : " Where does night come from ? — It's the 
air which becomes black. — Why does the air become black 
at night ? — . . . — And in the day ? — Then the air is white. 
At night is it black air that comes or does the white air 
become black ? — The white air goes away. — Where does the 
black air come from ? — The clouds." 

Mart (8 ; 10) : It's dark at night " because we sleep at 
night, you can't see anything. — Why is it dark ? — Because 
the sky becomes dark. — What makes it ? — Oh ! I don't 
know. — What do you think ? — Because it's bad weather. — 
What makes it get dark ? — The bad weather. — Is it always 
bad weather at night ? — Not always. — Then when it's 



294 CHILD'S CONCEPTION OF THE WORLD 

good weather what makes it get dark ? — Because the clouds 
catch one another up ( = join together)." 

Fran (9) : " What is night ? — It's when it's all dark. — 
Where does the darkness come from ? — From the sky. — 
How did night begin ? — Because of the clouds that are all 
black. — Where do they come from ? — From the sky.— Do 
they come during the day or the night ? — The night. — 
Why don't they come during the day ? — Because it's light 
in the day. At night it's dark. If they came in the day it 
would make it night ! — But why do they only come at 
night ? How does it happen ? — Because it's darker at 
night. — Do the clouds know they are moving or not ? — 
Yes, when the clouds come, they all go together so that you 
can't see a single spot of white. — Do they do it on purpose ? 
— Yes. — Why ? — Because we ought to go to sleep." 

ZwA (9) : " What is night ? Where does it come from ? 
— Because it's as if it's going to rain, it becomes dark. — 
What is the darkness ? — It's the night. — Where does it 
come from ? — It comes from the clouds. — Why does it come 
every evening ? — Because people are tired. — What makes 
night come ? — The sky. It gets dark. — Why ? — So that 
people can go to bed." 

Pat (10) : Night is "darkness." "Where does it come 
from ? — God. — How does God make it ? — / don't know. 
— Where does it come from ? — The clouds. — How ? — 
They get dark." 

For the children of the second stage night is thus big 
black cloud or black air. This cloud does not block out 
the day. It is not a screen. It is night itself, either 
because it is derived from the " black air " (Bourg) or 
because it produces black reflections. 

The answers are interesting from the point of view of 
artificialism. The cause that moves the cloud is either 
the will of man or of God and is completely explained 
by the obhgation to make us sleep. On the other hand, the 
artificiahsm is combined with an integral animism : the 
fact of commanding a cloud implies that it consciously 
obeys. As to the origin of this cloud, whether sent by 
God or by men, it is the same as that of all clouds in 
general : it is the smoke from the houses. 

The artificialism of the second stage is thus less complete 



METEOROLOGY 295 

than that of the first : man is no longer directly the cause 
of the formation of night. He is merely the agent of its 
movement. 

Numerous traces of this practical artificiahsm are still 
to be found in the third stage. But great progress has 
been made, in the sense that the night is no longer regarded 
as a substance, but simply as the absence of daylight. 
The child still calls in the clouds to explain night, but the 
night no longer actually consists of " clouds," they merely 
" block out " the daylight. Night is thus henceforth 
held to be a shadow, in the adult sense of the word. 

But it is evident that the passage from the conception 
of night-substance to that of night-shadow is not immediate 
but insensible. There exist numerous intermediate cases 
in which the child wavers between the two conceptions 
without succeeding in making up its mind. The following 
is an example : on the one hand it is said that the clouds 
block out the day (third stage), but on the other hand it 
is still beheved that the cloud must be black to produce 
the night, which comes to the same thing as still assimi- 
lating the night to a black substance (second stage). 

RouL (7) : " What is night ? — Black clouds. — Where 
do they come from ? — The sky. — How ? — They pass in 
front of the white clouds. — Why do they come at night ? — 
To hide the white clouds. They come to their place (answer 
of the second stage). — How does that happen ? — They 
come by themselves. They move. — How ? — God makes them 
come. — Could you make it night in this room ? — Yes. — 
How ? — By shutting the shutters. — What would happen 
then ? — You wouldn't see the daylight any more. — Then 
why would it be dark in the room ? — Because the shutters 
are shut. — Is that night then ? — Yes. — Is there a black 
cloud in the room when the shutters are shut ? — No. — 
Then what is it, this night in the room ? — You can't see 
the day any more.— And the night outside, what is that ? 
— The sky is blocked out by the great black clouds that come. 
— Must they be black to block out the day ? — Yes. — 
Could the day be blocked out by white clouds ? — No, 
because they couldn't block it out." 

Roul thus gives two explanations side by side. On the 



296 CHILD'S CONCEPTION OF THE WORLD 

one hand, night is made up of black clouds which take 
the place of " the white clouds " and on the other, night 
is a shadow produced by a cloud that acts as a screen. 
The next cases clearly belong to the third stage, that is 
to say they define the night from the outset and without 
suggestion as a shadow produced by the clouds blocking 
the daylight. 

Mai (8 ; 7) : " What is night ? — // is when it is no 
longer light. — Why isn't it any longer light ? — When the 
clouds are in front of the light. — Who told you that ? — 
No one. — And the light ? — When there arcnt any clouds. 
— What makes the light ? — The sky. ..." 

Bab (8 ; ii) : " \Vhy is it dark at night ? — Because the 
sky is hidden and the clouds." It is the clouds that thus 
hide the sky : " The clouds cover the whole sky and you can't 
see anything. — Where do the clouds come from ? — The 
sky. — What colour are they ? — Grey.— V^onXd white clouds 
do just as well to make night ? — Yes. — Why l^Because 
they all do." 

It is clear that the clouds no longer play the same part 
as in the second stage, that is to say the part of producing 
darkness solely by their presence, whether they fill the 
atmosphere or cause black reflections. The clouds hence- 
forward act as a screen, whatever their colour. Thus 
to make it night, it needs merely to " cover the sky " 
and thus hide the light which comes from the sky. 

Finally, during the fourth stage the children realise that 
night results solely from the sun's disappearance. They 
do not of course know that the earth revolves round the 
sun. It is, moreover, completely useless to teach them 
this too early since they cannot possibly understand it. 
We have seen children of 9 and 10 years old who had been 
taught the idea that America is the other side of the 
globe ; they had concluded that America is like a lower 
story compared with Europe and that to reach America 
the sun had to cross the sea by a tunnel which pierced 
what formed the floor of Europe and the roof of America. 
But without knowing that the earth is round the child 



METEOROLOGY 297 

can succeed in understanding that day is caused by the 
sun and night by its disappearance. 

In fact during the preceding stages and even during the 
third, the sun is not regarded as indispensable to day. 
Day is caused by white clouds or white air or by the sky : — 

Thus Deu (7) told us that the night is " a black cloud 
that hides the white sky." Although this answer is of the 
third stage Deu believes it to be the sky that makes it 
light : " The sun isn't like the light. The light makes every 
thing light, hut the sun only the place where it is." 

During the fourth stage, on the contrary, the child 
finally reahses that it is the sun that causes the daylight. 
This is usually due to adult influences but we beheve that 
certain subjects make this discovery unaided. The 
following are examples of the fourth stage : — 

Caud (9^) : " Where does night come from ? — It's 
when the sun sets that night begins. — Who told you that ? 
— I've seen it. — Why is it night when the sun sets ? — 
Because it isn't day any more. — Why does the sky become 
black at night ? — Because you can't see the daylight at 
night. You can't see where the sky is." 

Bonn {^) : " Why is it black at night ?—When it's 
time to go to bed. — Why is it dark at night, what do you 
think ? — Because the sun is hidden. — What makes it day ? 
— When there's the sun." 

The succession of these four stages thus shows a pro- 
gressive decrease in artificiahsm at the expense of an 
attempt to find explanations that shall be more and more 
adapted to physical reality. The order of succession of 
these stages, in particular of the first two, clearly indicates 
one of the roots of the child's artificialism : he begins 
by being interested in the " why " of things before he has 
any concern for the " how." In other words he starts 
from the impUcit postulate that everything has some 
meaning in the order of things : everything is conceived 
according to a plan and this plan itself is regarded as 
contributory to the good of human beings. Night is "so 
that we can sleep." This is the starting point (first stage). 
Only then is the child concerned to know the author of 



298 CHILD'S CONCEPTION OF THE WORLD 

the phenomenon and how it arises (second stage). The 
author is naturally man himself for whose sake the night 
exists. The " how " is the smoke of the chimneys which 
makes the clouds and the black air that fills the atmos- 
phere. By what means has Providence secured the regular 
return of night ? — The child does not even ask this. He 
is so sure that it is moral necessity and not chance or 
mechanical force that ordains the course of things that he 
supix)ses without seeking further, that men's wishes, 
coupled with the good will of the smoke and the clouds, 
themselves suffice to secure the constant succession of 
nights. Such, then, is child artificiahsm, so long as rehgious 
education has not intervened to comphcate it by con- 
ceptions foreign to his spontaneous thought. 

§ 3. The Origin of the Clouds. — To the child mind, 
the sky and the night are essentially made of clouds. 
We must, therefore, next consider whence the clouds come. 
This provides a most choice field for the study of arti- 
ficiahsm, for here the child may reveal complete spontaneity. 

On the subject of the origin of clouds we have statements 
collected from Paris, Nice, Savoy, the Valais and Geneva. 
Mile Margairaz set the same questions at Carouge, Mile 
M. Roud in the Vaudois district, and Mile M. Rodrigo in 
Spain. The results obtained in these different environ- 
ments have been found to tally, often with a parallehsm 
so striking that the conclusions which follow may be 
accepted with confidence. 

Three stages may be distinguished in the evolution of 
explanations concerning the origin of the clouds. During 
the first stage (average age 5-6 for Geneva), the cloud 
which is usually regarded as solid (of stone, earth, etc.) 
is conceived as made entirely by men or by God. During 
the second stage (average age 6-9 for Geneva and Paris) 
the child explains the clouds by the smoke from the roofs 
and maintains that if there were no houses there would be 
no clouds. The artificiahsm is thus more indirect than in 
the first stage but is still very systematic. Finally, during 
the third stage (from 9-10 on the average), the clouds are 



METEOROLOGY 299 

of entirely natural origin : the cloud is condensed air or 
moisture, or steam or heat, etc. 

The following are examples of the first stage : — 

AuB (7) : " Where do clouds come from ? — From the 
mountain. They come down, and then they stay there. — 
What do you think they are made of ? — Earth. — Where are 
they ? — In the sky. — How do they get up to the sky ? — 
It's God who makes them go up, because they couldn't do it 
alone." Nevertheless, the clouds are ahve : " If they move, 
of course they must know it." 

Gril (7) told us concerning rain : " It's God who makes 
it come. — How ? — He takes some big balls and he throws 
them up and it rains. — What are the balls made of ? — 
Stone. — Do we know when God throws these balls ? — 
Yes, we hear the thunder." And a few minutes later : 
" Where do the clouds come from ? — The sky. — What 
are they made of ? — Stone." The clouds are aUve and 
know when they move. So too Tac (6 ; 5) beheves the 
clouds to be made by God : " What are they made of ? — 
They're made of stone. Then that breaks. It's stuck fast 
on to the sky." 

For Rat (8) the clouds have been made of earth, on 
the mountain and by men " because they couldn't make 
themselves all alone." 

The use of the clouds is variously interpreted : — 

For Gril (7) clouds serve, as has just been seen, to make 
thunder and thus to bring rain. They come also " to 
make it light." 

For other children, the clouds are made " to make it 
night," " to show it's going to rain," etc. 

The answers of this first stage are thus comparable to 
the most primitive explanations of the origin of the sun 
and moon (see Chapter VIII, §§ i and 2). In both 
cases, the integral artificiaUsm implies animism rather 
than excludes it. The sun and moon are fires lit by man 
yet none the less they are ahve. The clouds are made of 
stones or of earth dug up by men and yet they are alive 
and conscious. 

Further, in both cases children are found who believe 
there is an initial participation between the celestial 
bodies and man, as if the clouds and the sun and moon 
had been directly produced by man. 



300 CHILD'S CONCEPTION OF THE WORLD 

Roy (6) told us, it will be remembered (Chapter VIII, 
§ i), that the sun and moon began " because of us, we 
started being alive," and they grew " because we grew." He 
then added that it is the clouds that make the sun and 
moon grow bigger. This second statement seems to 
contradict the first. But we shall see that this is not 
really so. In fact, a month after we had questioned him 
about the sun and moon we saw Roy again about the 
clouds : " Where do the clouds come from ? — The sky. — 
How ? — The sky makes them. — How ? — Because it is useful 
to make them. — How ? — Because that makes them cut in 
two. — What is cut in two ? — The sky. — What is a cloud 
made of ? — A ir. — And the sky ? — A ir too. — What happened 
the first time there ever was sky ? — It has always been. — 
But the first time ? — // was because of the wind. — Where 
did the wind come from }~The sky. — How did it happen ? 
— // was someone who blew. — Who ? — Men. — What men ? 
— The men whose business it was." 

These conversations suggest romancing. But, besides 
the fact that Roy has always seemed free from all 
romancing, exactly the same myths are found in the 
recollections of childhood of the deaf-mute, d'Estrella, 
recorded by James, and from which we have already 
made numerous extracts : — 

It will be remembered that to explain the origin of the 
sun and moon, d'Estrella (Chapter VIII, Introduction) 
supposed a " great strong man " hidden behind the hills 
of San Francisco. This man whom in his recollections 
d'Estrella calls " God " also explains the clouds : 
When it oDas windy he regarded this as an iridication of 
God's temper. A cold wind showed his anger ivhilst a fresh 
breeze indicated good humour. Why ? Because the child 
had sometimes felt the breath issue from the mouths of people 
who were angry or quarrelling. When there were clouds 
they came from God's great pipe because he had noted with 
childish admiration whirls of smoke rising from a pipe or 
cigar. The fantastic shapes of the clouds would often fill 
him with wonder as they floated by and he would marvel at 
the thought of what huge lungs God must have. When it was 
misty he supposed it due to God's breath in the cold morning 
because he had often noticed his own breath in such weather. 

During the second stage the origin of the cloud is half 



METEOROLOGY 301 

artificial, half natural. It is artificial in, so far as the cloud 
is produced by the smoke from the chimneys. It is 
natural in that the form and the rising of the clouds are 
independent of man. As is to be expected the clouds 
continue during this second stage to be regarded as alive 
and conscious. The following are examples : — 

Hans (5) : " Where do the clouds come from ? — The 
sky. — How does that happen ? — It's the smoke. — Where 
does it come from, the smoke of the clouds ? — The fire. — 
What fire ? — The fire in the stove. — What stove ? — When 
you cook. — If there weren't any houses, would there still 
be clouds ? — Yes. — Well then where do they come from ? 
— No. There wouldn't he any." 

Bois (5I) : " Where do the clouds come from ? — From 
the sky. — What are they made of ? — Like the sky. — What 
of ? — Of clouds. — What are the clouds made of ? — Of blue 
or white. — How did the clouds start in the beginning ? — 
From the chimney. — How ? — (The chimney) it's for the 
smoke to go out. — And then ? — It goes up into the sky, that 
makes the clouds." 

Moc (8) : " Where do the clouds come from ? — From 
the smoke. — Where is that ? — From the chimney. — If there 
weren't any houses would there still be clouds ? — No." 

Port (9) : " Where do the clouds come from ? — From 
the smoke. — What smoke ? — The smoke from the chimneys 
and from the stoves and then from the dust. — How does this 
smoke make clouds ? — It's painted in the sky. It drinks 
the air, then it is painted, then it goes into the sky. — Does 
this smoke of the clouds only come from the chimneys ? — 
Yes, and when there's someone who makes afire in the woods. 
When I was in Savoy, my uncle made a fire in the woods, 
that made smoke, it went into the sky, it was quite blue. — 
Have you seen it blue ? — Yes, it is blue, but when it goes 
into the sky it is black. — Do the clouds feel heat and cold ? 
— Yes, because it's the clouds that make the cold come and 
then the heat." 

Mai (9 ; 6) : " What are the clouds ? — They're smoke. 
— Where does the smoke of the clouds come from ? — From 
the chimneys, from the gas-works." 

BouRG (9 ; 6) explains as we saw in § 2 that night is 
due to the black air coming out of the clouds: " Where 
does the black air come from ? — The clouds. — Where do 
the clouds come from ? What are they made of ? — Of 



302 CHILD'S CONCEPTION OF THE WORLD 

smoke. — Where does the smoke come from ? — The 
chimneys." 

Marg (io) : The clouds are made "from the smoke." 
" What smoke }— White or grey. — Where does this smoke 
come from ? — The chimneys." On the other hand, the 
clouds " are alive. — Why ? — Otherwise they couldn't move. 
If they weren't alive they couldn't move." They are also 
conscious of what they do. 

ZuL (lo) : " What are clouds ? — The smoke that gets 
lost in the air, then it turns into the clouds. When it rains 
they get quite white, and sometimes red.-^WhSit are they 
made of ? — Smoke." They are alive " because they move." 

It is interesting from the pedagogical point of view to 
note that this moderated artificialism of the second stage 
is so persistent that even the best lessons that can be 
given on clouds risk being distorted by the pupil and 
assimilated to the schema outhned above. In fact we 
have met quite a large number of school children who 
knew that clouds are " en vapeur " and that this " vapeur " 
is produced by heating or boiling water (an illustration 
in one of the reading books on steam) but they conclude 
from this that all clouds have been produced from sauce- 
pans. These children have evidently retained their 
spontaneous explanation but have substituted for the idea 
of " smoke " that of " steam." The following are examples 
of this artificialism in which the matter has been borrowed 
from adplt conversation only to be mutilated : — 

BuL (ii ; 8) : " How are clouds made ? — They're the 
mist from the sea {la vapeur de la mer). — Why ? — They 
come from the mist from the sea, from the water that evapo- 
rates. — Why does it evaporate ? — The water is hot. — Why 
is it hot ? — Because it's been made hot. — By what ? — The 
fire. — How did that happen ? — The fire of the boats. — Do 
they heat the water in the sea? — Yes." Moreover, the 
clouds " are also water that's been heated in the houses, when 
the windows are open." This shows how much a child of 
nearly 12 has understood of lessons on the evaporation of 
the sea ! 

DucR (8i) : The clouds are " of steam {vapeur). When 
water is cooked in the saucepans it makes steam and it goes 
up to the sky." On the other hand the clouds are alive 



METEOROLOGY 303 

" because they fly in the air as if they were birds, but they 
go very fast." 

The following cases are intermediate between the second 
and third stages : the child mingles with his artificiaUsm 
what is clearly a natural explanation. Clouds are thus 
given a double origin : the smoke or steam of which the 
the cloud is made arises both from the houses and from 
the lakes or sea. 

Cen (8 ; 6) : "Do you know where clouds come from ? 
— Steam. — What is steam ? — It's like smoke. — Where does 
steam come from ? — From water when it's boiling or nearly 
boiling." " Where does the steam of the clouds come from? 
— When you cook the soup. — Does cooking the soup make 
the clouds ? — The steam goes out and it takes water with 
it." Cen would thus seem in the second stage but he adds : 
" Without houses would there still be clouds ? — Yes. — 
Where would they come from ? — Other countries. — If 
there weren't houses in other countries either would there 
still be clouds ? — Yes. — How ? — They'd make fires and 
there would be smoke and then steam." And if " they " did 
not make fires there would still be clouds that came 
"from the mountains," but Cen doesn't know how they 
would be made. Cen is thus a child who clearly feels that 
the clouds are in part independent of man, but he does 
not know how to explain this and so has recourse, when 
pressed, to artificiaUst explanations. 

Caril (ii ; 7) : The clouds are " of steam. — Where does 
it come from ? — It's made by the sun . . . {it comes) from 
the sea ; it comes when you heat water. — Where do the clouds 
come from ? — The saucepans." 

These examples obviously show the influence of the 
lessons the children have been given. The following case, 
on the contrary, seems to be spontaneous : the clouds 
have an origin that is at first artificiaUst, but they are 
made by a natural process : — 

Vel (8^) started by sajdng : " The clouds are made of 
air." But their first origin is artificial : " How are they 
made ? — Of smoke. — Where does this smoke come from ? 
— Stoves. — Are air and smoke the same thing ? — No, the 
smoke makes the air and the air makes the clouds." 



304 CHILD'S CONCEPTION OF THE WORLD 

Next comes the third stage during which the children 
attribute to the clouds an entirely natural origin. Un- 
fortunately the majority of the answers now obtained 
are directly inspired by school lessons (the reverse of what 
was found with the sun and moon). " It's the sun that 
makes the water evaporate." The sun turns it into steam 
by heating it, etc. But, besides these formulae that have 
been learned, are found a number of more or less spontaneous 
explanations, which alone will be mentioned and which 
are of interest. The principle of these explanations is the 
same as that of the explanations that were collected on 
the natural origin of the sun and moon (Chapter VIII 
§ 3) : that is to say identity of substance. Clouds are 
of condensed air, of smoke, lightning, heat, moisture, etc. ; 
air, fire, smoke, steam and water being felt to have the 
power of transforming themselves, from one to the other 
just as was maintained in the pre-Socratic physics. The 
first examples identify the cloud with the smoke of 
lightning : — 

Ben (7I) : Clouds are made " of the smoke " that comes 
from the thunder. " It's the thunder that brings the water." 
Thus the lightning gives off smoke, and the smoke is 
changed into cloud which turns into water. 

Fav (7) : Clouds are " of fire." Thunder comes from 
the cloud and the cloud is the smoke of the thunder, 

Lef (8|) : " Where do clouds come from ? — They come 
from the thunder, they're water." The water comes from 
the thunder because the thunder smokes and the smoke 
becomes water. 

Gerv. (ii) believes that the clouds are made of the 
smoke from volcanoes. Correspondingly the earth is made 
of heaped-up clouds (see Chapter XI, § 3). 

The next examples reduce the cloud to air or to com- 
pressed air : — 

Chev (8 ; 2) : " What are clouds ? — Air. — Where do 
they come from ? — Behind the mountain. They're made 
behind the mountain. — Tell me how ? — By a lot of air. The 
air gets together and then it goes up. — How are they formed, 
these clouds which are just above us ? — By the air up 



METEOROLOGY 305 

there. There's more air up there than down here.- —But you 
told me they were made behind the mountain. --T/^a/'s so 
as one doesn't see them being made. -Wow are they made ? 
— By the air. — And were those ones overhead us made 
behind the mountain ? — Yes, because they ivent up earlier. 
They went up in the night, while those by the mountain went 
up in the day. — Are they only made behind the mountains ? 
— No, some are made before, in front of us. My brother told 
me so. All the air comes and it makes mists. — You say they 
are sometimes made in front of us ? — .-1//, that's by the air 
down here joining together. — How does that happen ? — 
There is a lot of air that comes. It makes a big heap." 

LiDT (9) : " What are the clouds made of ? — Air. — 
What happens to this air in the sky ? — It turns into a great 
cloud, then it becomes very heavy and it falls." 

ZwA (9) : " There is some smoke from the water which 
goes up to the sky and makes the clouds. --Whcxe does the 
smoke from the water come from ? — The water makes it. 
— Where ? — Inside. It's made at the bottom of the water 
and it comes to the top. — How }— Because the lake always 
goes down more. There is a little sand which goes up like 
smoke and it goes up to the sky. — What makes the smoke, 
the water or the sand ? — The sand. — Why does the smoke 
from the water come out of the sand ? — Sometimes there 
are little stones which break and smoke comes out. — Why ?— 
Because the water is strong and so they break." Zwa evi- 
dently means by the term " smoke from the water " the 
air bubbles that can be seen forming on the wet sand on 
the banks of the Lake of Geneva. 

As to the identity of the cloud with heat and moisture 
examples will be found when studying the explanations 
concerning the formation of rain (§ 5). 

The originality of these few answers of the third stage 
is clear. The clouds are explained as due to an entirely 
natural process, and this process consists essentially in 
the transformation of substances qualitatively hetero- 
geneous. Further, some children arrive at the interesting 
notion of a condensation of substances. Thus Chev and 
Lidt speak of the air " which joins together," which 
" becomes very heavy," etc. Arc these ideas spontaneous ? 
If one only had these examples to go by one might doubt 
it and see merely the result of lessons on rain or steam 



3o6 CHILD'S CONCEPTION OF THE WORLD 

that had been badly understood. But these explanations 
are of the same type as those that children of 9 and 10 
give for the origin of the sun and moon (that they are 
of air or of condensed cloud), and for the origin of stones 
(pebbles are earth that has been pressed together) and 
especially differences of specific weight between objects 
(a heavy object is " fuller " or " more compressed " than 
a light object of the same volume ; see Causalite Physique). 
In these conditions there is nothing unlikely in supposing 
the explanations quoted above to be spontaneous. 

If we now examine the results obtained elsewhere than 
at Geneva, we shall find an exactly similar process of 
evolution, but with differences in the average age of the 
stages. At Paris, out of some fifty children examined in 
detail, it was found that the first stage is at an average 
age of less than 7, the second gives an average age of 8 
and the third of 9^. In Spain these stages are found at an 
average of 7^, 9 and io|. In the country, artificialist 
explanations naturally disappear earlier but the same types 
of explanation are found. We found young country 
children claiming that the clouds are produced by the 
<:himneys of the houses at Beaulieu-sur-mer as much as in 
the heart of the Valais, in the Vaudois or in Savoy. 

In conclusion, it is clear to what an extent the child's 
natural trend of mind impels it to artificialism even in 
regard to things in appearance as independent of man as 
the clouds. The details of this artificialism are certainly 
not of great interest. In particular, the dominating 
idea among children, according to which the clouds are 
nourished by the chimney smoke, is the idea which is 
most natural to minds already leaning towards artificiahsm. 
But the detail is of small consequence. The interest is in 
the general tendencies it supposes. If it be remembered 
that the sky and also the sun and moon are thought of by 
the child as formed of clouds above all else, and that 
night itself is due to a regular activity of the clouds 
which is intentional or at any rate teleological, the signi- 
ficance of the results analysed becomes clear. Nothing 



METEOROLOGY 307 

is left to hazard in the child's universe. Smoke itself, 
which would seem to be the type of useless object depen- 
dent solely on caprice, is conceived by the children as 
forming the material of the sky and as essentially the cause 
of atmospheric fluctuations and of the night. From the 
point of view of animism, it follows naturally that during 
the first two stages the smoke and the clouds are conceived 
as conscious and alive. During the third stage, on the 
contrary, animism is in abeyance. But many of the 
children who identify the clouds with air, or, in accordance 
with the lessons they have been taught, with water vapour, 
still regard them as conscious. The question will be 
considered again in deahng with the movement of the 
clouds {Causaliie Physique). 

§ 4. Thunder and Lightning. — Before passing to the 
study of children's accounts of the formation of rain, their 
conceptions concerning storms must be examined. All 
children are interested in the question of storms. Count- 
less questions may be collected on thunder and lightning. 
Those of the earhest ages, up to about the age of 6, are 
manifestly artificialist, even in form. Del at 6| {Language 
and Thought, p. 173) asks, for example, on being told that 
thunder happens of its own accord : " Why does it happen 
by itself? Is it true? — But aren't there all the things to 
make fire with in the sky." 

The answers obtained may be classified into three stages. 
During the first, thunder and hghtning are regarded as 
made just as they are in the sky, or on the mountains. 
During the second stage they are produced by natural 
means by the clouds or the sun which are themselves 
regarded as having an artificial origin. During the third 
stage, the origin of storms is entirely natural. 

The following are examples of the first stage, which is 
hardly ever found beyond the age of 6 : — 

Stei (5) : " What is thunder ? — Hitting with hammers. 
— Do you really think that, or are you just making it up ? 
— I think it. — Who hammers ? — God.- — Why ? — To make 
it rain. — What is lightning ? How is it made ? — / don't 



3o8 CHILD'S CONCEPTION OF THE WORLD 

knoin).— By itself ? — Yes. Before the thunder. — What is 
it made of ? — Fire. — Where does hghtning come from ? — 
From the fire because it's being lit with matches. It lights 
and that makes the lightning. — Who hghts it ? — God. — 
Why ? — He lights it so as to make a noise. — Why ? — 
Because he wants to. — Why does he want to ? — / can't 
remember any more." 

Don (5 ; 5) : " What is Hghtning ? — It's made by the 
thunder. — How ? — The thunder cracks and then the lightning, 
it's the thunder that makes it. — What is the hghtning made 
of ? — Fire. — Where does the fire come from ? — The 
thunder. — Is the thunder made of fire ? — There's fire in 
the thunder. — Where does the thunder come from ? — The 
mountai^i. — How is it made in the mountain ? — The 
builders do it. — How ? — They take some iron and make the 
thunder with it." 

All the myths in this first stage are alike. The second 
stage lasts on an average from the ages of 7 to 9. Thunder 
is due to an explosion of the clouds and lightning to fire 
coming out of the clouds or the sun, or moon. But the 
clouds and the sun and moon are thought to be formed 
from the smoke from the houses or from air made by men. 

Roy (6 ; 5) : " What is thunder ? — It's lightning. Then 
that makes fire and then it growls. — Where does the fire 
come from ? — The sm».— Why does it growl ? — The moon 
makes it growl." It will be remembered that for Roy the 
sun results from a match thrown by God, and in any case 
the sun grows bigger by virtue of the clouds which are 
produced by people breathing. 

Due (6 ; 10) : " What is thunder ?— //'s when the 
lightnings meet. — Where does the lightning come from ? — 
The sky. — What is it ? — Like fire. It's from the stars." 
The stars, however, have been made by man. 

Bois (5 1) starts by forming a reciprocal association 
between thunder and the stars ; " What is thunder ? — 
Fire. — How is it made ? — With stars and with fire. — How 
are the stars made ? — By it (the thunder) making them 
catch fire." But both result from the hghtning which is 
formed by the clouds : " Where does the hghtning come 
from ? — The clouds. — Is there fire in the clouds ? — Yes. — 
How is that ? — From the smoke." That is to say the 
clouds having been made from the smoke from the roofs 
(Bois is definite on this point) they can change back again 



METEOROLOGY 309 

to fire, which gives birth to the Hghtning and thence to 
the thunder and the stars. 

The most common explanation found in the second 
stage is that the thunder is produced by the colHsion 
of two clouds and the lightning by the conflagration thus 
set up, the clouds being made of smoke and the smoke 
containing fire ! 

Cess (8 ; 6) : " What is thunder ? — Fire. — Where does 
it come from ? — The clouds hitting one another .—^V^hy does 
that make a noise ? — Because they hit one another so hard. 
— What is lightning ? — Fire. — Where does it come from ? 
— From the clouds because they've hit one another. — How 
does it happen ? — Because they're made of fire, like the sun 
and the moon." 

Moc (8) : " Where does thunder come from ?-'The 
clouds. — How ? — When they hit they burst. — What is 
lightning ? — Fire. — Why does fire come out ? — Because it 
(the thunder) makes the clouds burst." 

Bo (9 1) : " What is thunder ? — The clouds hitting one 
another. — Why ? — To make the thunder .—Vv here does the 
noise come from ? — Their hitting one another. — Is a cloud 
hard ? — Yes. — Like the table ? — No (Bo had said shortly 
before that clouds are the smoke from the stoves). — What 
is lightning ? — The thunder coming out." There is fire 
" in the clouds. — Is there fire in the clouds now ? — Some- 
times. — What are clouds. — Fire." 

The third stage marks the appearance of purely natural 
explanations. The majority of these have been learnt 
and concern the " electricity " of the clouds. But, as 
usual, a good number of original answers are found 
showing a relative spontaneity. These alone will be 
quoted. They consist essentially in treating the storm 
as the clash of two clouds, but of clouds made of air or 
steam, etc. As to the lightning, it arises either from the 
explosion or from the friction thus produced, or again 
from sparks due to the stars. 

Ch.\i (9) identifies, as has been shown (Chapter VIII, 
§ 3), the sun with a cloud and both too with the air. We 
saw Chal again a month after these answers were obtained 
and he recounted the following : " What is thunder ? — 



310 CHILD'S CONCEPTION OF THE WORLD 

Noise. It's two clouds meeting. — Why does that make a 
noise ? — Whe7i they meet they hit.- — Are the clouds hard ? 
— No. — How does it make a noise then ? — . . .—What is 
Hghtning? — Fire. — Where does it come from? — It comes 
from the clouds ; that makes the fire. — Why is there fire 
in the clouds l^Because the sun is made of fire. It's a 
hall (of fire).^ — Does the lightning come from the sun ? — 
No.— Does the fire of the hghtning come from the sun ? — 
Yes. — Does the sun make the lightning come ? — No, the 
clouds. — Why does the fire of the lightning come from the 
sun ? — Because the sun was a ball of fire and it hurst." 
The sun, or rather the suns are thus lighted clouds which 
in bursting set light to other clouds. The clouds them- 
selves are of air and their explosion causes the thunder. 

It has been shown elsewhere (Chapter VIII, § 3) 
how Ant, And and Gerv explain the formation of the sun 
and moon as due to heaped-up lightning. Chal provides 
the corresponding explanation in interpreting the Hghtning 
as produced by the sun. 

Hend (9 ; 8) : " What is thunder ? — It's two clouds 
meeting and that makes the lightning. First they touch and 
they hit one another and that makes the thunder and lightning. 
— Why does it make the hghtning ? — Because the two 
clouds ruh against one another and that makes sparks. — 
Why ? — If you ruh two hits of stick against one another that 
makes sparks too. — Why do they rub one another ? — 
They get hot and afterwards the spark comes." Hend 
declares that the cloud is not hard and that it is of steam. 
But in order for the cloud to be able to move, " the steam 
must be pressed together a lot." 

Ross (10 ; 7) : " What is thunder ? — The clouds jump- 
ing. — How ? — Because they're meeting. — And then what 
happens ? — The lightning. — What is that ? — A flash 
that is made hy the clouds. — Why do they make a flash ? — 
Because they meet." 

These explanations are not unhke those of the pre- 
Socratics : the air enclosed in the clouds makes them 
burst and this rending produces a flash, etc. 

In conclusion, this rapid survey of the explanations 
concerning the formation of storms confirms what was 
seen with regard to the clouds : the evolution of the 



METEOROLOGY 311 

explanations proceeds from an integral artificialism to an 
attempt at a natural constitution, the principle of which 
is the identity of heterogeneous substances. The explan- 
ation of rain will complete the whole. 

§ 5. The Formation of Rain. — The problem of the 
conceptions concerning rain is one of the most interesting 
connected with the child's artificialism. For since during 
the first stages the clouds are regarded as made of stones 
or smoke there is no reason for supposing the rain to come 
from the clouds, rather than from the sky itself. But 
experience has shown the connection between clouds and 
rain : when it rains there are always clouds. The child 
knows this perfectly well. What sort of connection then 
does he imagine to exist between them ? Is the cloud the 
sign of rain or the cause of it, dr is there a confusion between 
sign and cause as is found among primitives ? As a matter 
of fact all three solutions are found more or less mixed 
and without any definite relation to age. 

For greater clarity, we shall take first the explanations 
collected on the origin of rain without considering the 
relation of the rain to the clouds which will be dealt with 
later as a separate problem. 

From the outset numerous spontaneous questions reveal 
the child's natural trend of mind from the ages of 2 to 7. 
Del at the age of 6| {Language and Thought, p. 203) still 
asks : " But how is the rain made in the sky. Are there 
pipes or streams it runs along ? " (For Del the " streams " 
themselves have been made by man.) 

D'Estrella recounts the recollections of childhood quoted 
in § 7 : " When it rained, he {d'Estrella himself) never 
doubted hut that God (' the great strong man ') had taken 
a big mouthful of water and spat it from his huge mouth in 
the form of a shower. Why ? — Because he had on several 
occasions observed the skill with which the Chinese thus 
watered their linen that was hanging up to bleach." 

We can classify the answers given into three stages, 
according to whether rain is explained by an integral 
artificialism, a mitigated artificiahsm or a natural process. 



312 CHILD'S CONCEPTION OF THE WORLD 

The following are examples of the first stage, beginning 
with a case which recalls the recollections of the deaf- 
mute, d'Estrella. 

We saw (§ 3) how Roy (6 ; 5) conceives the clouds as 
made by the air from human breath : " It's from someone 
breathing." Similarly ioi Roy the rain comes from the 
clouds : "it comes from the sky. — And the water in the 
sky ? — From the clouds.- — Where did the water come from 
the first time ? — When there were men who spat a lot." 
This answer was not given soon after the explanation 
of the formation of the clouds. There is therefore no 
perseveration. 

Usually, however, the water of the rain is regarded as 
actually made by man, but it may often be questioned how 
far, allowing for the reticences and the sniggers which 
go with the youngest children's answers, the " taps " or 
pipes of which they speak have not in certain cases (we 
suppose nothing more) a fairly clear symbolic meaning. 
We shall postpone answering this question until § 7 
where it arises again in connection with the origin of 
streams. 

Griar (5^) : " What is rain ? — It's water. — Wliere does 
it come from ? — The sky. — Is there water in the sky ? — 
God sends it down. — How ? — He throws out buckets of water. 
— Who told you that ? — No one. — Where does God get 
the water from ? — In his tap. — Where does the water 
come from for the tap ? . . . (he laughs)." 

God is naturally regarded as like a man. Don (5 J) 
said that the rain comes from the sky and that God sends 
it, he added further : " Are there fountains in the sky ? — 
Sometimes there are streams. There is God. — What does 
he do ? — He is in his house working. — Why ? — For his 
master. — Who is God ? — He's a man {un Monsieur)." 

Pan (5) : " And where does the rain come from ? — 
The sky. — How ?— / don't know. Perhaps there is a hose 
like Daddy has to wet the De Dion [i.e. to wash down the 
car). — Do you think it possible ? — Yes, it's possible, 
because it's the same dirt. — Where ? — On the pavements, it 
makes puddles of water. — How does it come ? — There's a 
tap and afterwards there's a pipe that turns and then he 
sends the rain to water the flowers. — Who ? — God." 



METEOROLOGY 313 

Hans (5|) : " It's God who makes it. — How is it made ? 
— He takes some water and then he throws it. — Where does 
he take the water from ? — From the sink." 

Gril (7) says that the rain and the water come from 
the sky : " How does this water come ? — Down. — Down 
where ? — In the fountains. — How does it get to the sky ? 
— By pipes. — Where are these pipes ? — In the street. — 
Where do they go from ? — From the fountains or the canal. 
— Where do they go to ? — Up to the sky," etc. It is men 
who make it rain. 

Ram (9) thinks also that it is men and not God who 
make it rain. The rain goes up to the sky " by taps. — 
How ? — The water flows in the taps. — And then ? — It 
makes little drops and then it goes up to the sky. — How does 
it go up ? — In spouts of water. — Why don't we see them ? 
— Because they're so thin." 

It is unnecessary to multiply the instances of such 
myths, the gist of which are moreover well known. It 
is, as always, open to question exactly how far the children 
believe what they are sa3dng and at what point they start 
romancing. But the important thing is to realise that 
they have nothing with which to replace this artificialism. 
Whether they make up the details or not they can only 
explain things by having recourse to human activity and 
not to the things themselves. 

This is why, during the second stage, the child comes 
to endow things with human activity. In fact, during 
the second stage direct artificialsim is no longer found in 
that .the rain no longer comes from taps in the sky. But 
there is indirect artificialism, in that it is an object derived 
from human activity, like the smoke from the houses, etc. 
that produces the rain. But then, and this is what marks 
the continuity of the first and second stages, this thing 
that produces the rain becomes itself endowed with an 
immanent artificialism : there is collaboration between us 
and the things. This collaboration is expressed by the 
childish phrase: " faire faire " ( = get made). Man and 
God get the rain made (" font faire la pluie "), that is to 
say they " make " (font) something, but the smoke, the 
sky or the clouds also " make " (font) something. The 



314 CHILD'S CONCEPTION OF THE WORLD 

two meanings of the word " faire " are thus completely 
confused. 

The following are examples of the second stage : — 

Blas (8 ; io) : " Where does rain come from ? — It 
comes from the clouds. — How ? — The smoke goes up and 
then thai makes the clouds. — What smoke ? — The smoke 
from the houses. — How does this smoke make rain ? — 
Because the heat makes the clouds melt. It (the smoke) turns 
hack again and then it becomes water. Because the smoke 
melts, it changes shape and then water comes." Moreover, 
the clouds do this intentionally and consciously : they 
know they're going forward " because it moves. So do we 
know when we're moving." 

Port (9) : The clouds are from the smoke of the houses 
again, " then it becomes black and then it turns into water." 
" It melts just for a minute and then afterwards it becomes 
water." And the clouds move to our commands : " When 
people walk in the street too, that makes the clouds move." 

Marg (10) : " Where does the rain come, from ? — The 
sky. — How ? — It's the clouds and the smoke. — Where does 
the smoke come from ? — The chimneys. — How does this 
smoke cause the rain ? — Because it melts. — Does the smoke 
melt ? — Yes. — What makes it melt ? — The heat." The 
clouds again are alive and conscious. 

Moc (8) : " Where does the rain come from ? — The 
sky. — WTiat is it ? — Water. — How is it made ? — The clouds. 
— How ? — Because they jump. The clouds jump and then 
the rain comes. — What do you mean by saying they jump ? 
— / mean that they burst. — Where do the clouds come 
from ? — The smoke. — Where ? — From the chimneys." 

For these children therefore the clouds move about 
intentionally to wherever rain is necessary and transform 
themselves into water. The process of the formation of 
rain is thus in one sense natural but the clouds are still 
regarded as produced by the smoke from the houses and 
above all they obey us either directly (Port) or indirectly. 
What happens then when these children are taught that 
the rain results from the evaporation of the sea ? Their 
spontaneous idea, which is also artificialist, simply becomes 
fused with the teaching they have received and they then 
conclude that the smoke from the houses " goes and 



METEOROLOGY 315 

fetches " water from the sea. The following are examples 
of this confusion of the child's own idea with the lesson 
he has been taught : — 

Dem (8) : "At night, sometimes, not always, the clouds 
go down and draw up the water." But clouds are made of 
smoke. " Are they made of steam ? — Of smoke, not steam ! 
(laughing). — How do they draw up the water ? — As if 
they liked it.- — What would happen if a boat was there? — 
It would he such a shock that it would sink." 

Bong (9 ; 6) also says that the clouds come from the 
chimneys and that the clouds make it rain : " You told 
me that the clouds were of smoke. Is there water in 
the smoke ? — . . . — Where does the rain come from ? — 
Fire. — If a fire were lit in this room would that make it 
rain on us ? — No. Because the clouds go down to the sea 
and take the water. — How ? — They go on the water and the 
water goes into the clouds. — Do they know they are going 
to get water ? — Yes." 

Cen (8 ; 6) : The clouds are " of steam," that is to say 
they are " of air that contains water." " Where does the 
steam of the clouds come from ? — When the soup is being 
cooked. — Does that make the clouds ? — The steam goes 
outside and it takes water with it. — Is there air in the clouds ? 
— There is air and there's water on top." 

This shows how even the best lessons can be distorted 
by an artificiahst mind ! It is clear too what admirable 
organisation the child sees in nature, since the smoke from 
the houses itself undertakes to fetch water from the sea, 
or the air from the saucepans " takes water with it." 

This second stage extends on an average from the age 
of 7 or 8 to 9I or 10. It forms therefore a perfect transition 
between the first and the third stages in that it maintains 
a part of the artificialism of the first stage whilst already 
foreshadowing the natural processes on which the child of 
the third stage lays stress. In fact, during the third stage 
besides numerous explanations that have been learned 
(such as that rain is condensed water vapour) are a great 
number of original answers which alone will be quoted. 
Different types are found corresponding to the types of 
reply given concerning the origin of clouds (3rd stage). 



3i6 CHILD'S CONCEPTION OF THE WORLD 

When the cloud is conceived as of the smoke of lightning 
(Ben, Fan, Lef, etc.) water results simply from the cloud 
" melting." This is similar to the explanation of the 
second stage, except that the smoke has here an entirely 
natural origin. It is therefore unnecessary to deal with 
it further. When the cloud is conceived as of air, water 
results from the transformation of the air into water : 

Tron (8|) : " What are clouds made of ? — Rain. — 
Where does this rain come from ? — It's air which is turned 
into water." A moment later: "And what are clouds 
made of ? — Air." 

Ant (8) : " Where does the rain come from ? — The 
clouds. — How ? — Because the clouds have water. — Why ? — 
It's the air (le vent) which changes into water." Ant 
believes that the air is itself derived from the clouds which 
are made of compressed air. 

Chev (8 ; 2) as has already been seen (§ 3) regards the 
clouds as air " which joins together." " What makes it 
rain ? — Because the clouds are wet. They are full of water. 
— Where does it come from ? — Because of the mist. When 
there is a lot it makes water. It feels like little drops of water 
when we have it here." The mist itself is of air : "All the 
air comes and that makes mist." Thus again it is the air 
which finally changes into water. 

Finally, other children seem spontaneously to regard the 
clouds as " heat " or " wetness " or " perspiration," and 
the rain explains itself. 

ScHi (7 ; 4) said that the clouds come from mist : 
" What is the mist made of ? — Water. — Like the water 
in the tap ? — No, it's water like when you perspire. It's 
not quite water when you perspire, it's like water. — Where 
does this water come from ? — / think it comes from being 
hot. So that it ought to be heat that makes the clouds come 
. . . — How is that ? What heat does it come from ? — 
It comes from the sun. — Where does the water come from 
that is heated by the sun ? — From the sun itself. — What 
is the sun made of ? — Fire, I think. When it's too hot, it's 
like when your hands are too hot, the sun perspires, and that 
makes the clouds cover it." 

Bar (9:5): Water comes "from the c/owis.— What are 
the clouds? — They're like water. — Are they water? — No. 
heat. — How does heat turn into water ? — It makes it 



METEOROLOGY 317 

perspire.^— Wh3.t ? — The clouds. Us too sometimes. It's 
the sun that makes the clouds perspire to make rain. — How 
are the clouds made ? — By little drops that come together 
and that makes the clouds. — Where do the drops come 
from ? — The sky. — Where does the water come from, the 
sky ? — It's like over rocks, the water flows over them and 
comes down." 

BoucH (11 ; 10) : Rain is " wetness." "Where did the 
wetness come from the first time it rained ? — From per- 
spiration. — Of what ? — The sun, when it's too much, it 
makes it perspire." It is thus the sun itself that perspires. 

The process of evolution of these explanations plainly 
recalls the explanations of storms or of the formation 
of the clouds — air and smoke change into water as well as 
into fire. The sun itself perspires (Schi), etc. 

It remains to examine the question of the relationship 
the child supposes between rain and the clouds. As the 
study of the various stages has shown, he begins by thinking 
the clouds and the rain to be independent and ends by 
maintaining between them a relation of cause and effect, 
rain resulting from the cloud. But between these two 
extremes hes a critical zone which must now be studied 
because the child wavers in a most interesting way between 
the idea that the clouds are the " sign " and the idea that 
they are the " cause " of rain. 

Gril (7) : " Can we see when it's going to rain ? — 
Sometimes it thunders." But as was shown in § 3 this 
sign is also cause since Gril conceives the thunder as a 
stone that God hurls to set free the rain : "He takes great 
balls and he throws them and it rains." But this cause is 
irrational, since the rain is not contained in the balls but 
is set free by them. 

Rey (7) thinks that God sends the rain by means of a 
tube and that the clouds are of " black chalk." There is 
thus no connection between them. Nevertheless, the clouds 
are a sign of rain : " Can you see when it's going to rain ? 
— No, you can only see the clouds." " Why are there clouds 
when it is going to rain ? — Because God is cross." But the 
clouds are again partly the cause of the rain : " What are 
the clouds ? — They're rain that's going to come." This last 
expression does not mean in the least that Rey identifies 



3i8 CHILD'S CONCEPTION OF THE WORLD 

the cloud with water. He maintains right to the end that 
it is " of black chalk." The expression contains simply 
the idea that the arrival of the cloud sets free the rain. 

Ram (9) regards the rain as going up to the sky by means 
of taps. The clouds, on the other hand, are of smoke from 
the roofs. There is thus no connection between the two 
phenomena. Ram, however, states that the rain can only 
go up to the sky if there are clouds : " When does it go 
up ? — When there are clouds in the sky. — Then do the clouds 
make it come ? — Yes. — How ? — Because they are black." 
But Ram insists that the clouds are of smoke and contain 
no water. Again the sign is felt to be a cause although the 
child is unable to explain how the relation works. 

ZwA (9 ; 7) as was quoted in § 3 explains the formation 
of the clouds as bubbles of air that come out of the water. 
On the other hand, he explains the rain as coming directly 
from the sky. Thus he sees no direct connection between 
the rain and. the clouds : " What are the clouds for ? — 
To show it is going to rain. — Do they make the rain or does 
it come from the sky ? — It comes from the sky. — Do the 
clouds make the rain ? — No. — Why are the clouds to show 
it is going to rain ? — Because if there weren't any, it wouldn't 
rain." These last words affirm a causal relationship and 
yet right to the end of the examination Zwa continues to 
maintain that the rain does not come from the clouds. 

Finally, the following case is the plainest example we 
found showing differentiation between " sign " and 
" cause." But, as we shall see, the child still conceives 
the cloud as partially " cause " at the same time that it 
is " sign." 

BoucH (11 ; 10) conceives rain as the " perspiration " 
of the sun. The clouds have a natural origin which Bouch 
refuses to specify. " What are the clouds ? What are 
they made of ?—They show it's going to rain, that it won't 
be fine weather. — Why ? — When you see the clouds in the 
distance you know it's going to be bad weather." " If there 
weren't any clouds, could it rain just the same ? — Yes 
. . . (no), you know it's going to be bad weather when there 
are clouds, and it is bad weather at once. — Why ? — After- 
wards, when there are clouds, the rain comes at once. — Do 
the clouds make it rain ? — They make the bad weather 
come and that makes it rain.— Then is it the clouds that 
make it rain ? — No, that isn't what makes it rain." " Why 



METEOROLOGY 319 

does it rain when the clouds come ? — When the clouds come 
it makes it night, it makes it dark. — Then why does the 
rain come ? — No, there are times when it isn't because the 
clouds come that the rain falls. — Why do the clouds show 
it is going to rain ? — Because abojays when the clouds come 
it rains. — Why ? — The clouds show it is going to he had 
weather. — Why ? . . ." These contradictions of Bouch 
show plainly how he hesitates between the idea that the 
clouds are a sign and the idea that they are the cause of 
rain. And even then Bouch does not beheve the rain to 
come from the clouds ! 

These cases are very instructive. Between the stage 
during which the child sees no connection between the 
rain and the clouds and the stage in which the rain comes 
from the clouds, there is thus present in many children 
a period of transition during which the clouds foretell the 
rain. But as soon as the cloud is conceived as a sign it is 
also conceived as a cause. WTiat sort of a causality is 
this ? Not a rational causality, since the clouds neither 
contain the rain nor set it free by any mechanical process. 
The cloud is rather a cause in the sense that it is a necessary 
aspect of the event. As L Meyerson stated concerning 
certain explanations given by savages : " The cause becomes 
one aspect, one side of the event." ^ This formula certainly 
fits the relationship estabUshed by our children between 
the clouds and the rain. 

This idea of the sign being regarded as a necessary 
part of the event is, moreover, of great importance to 
our research for it constitutes one of the forms of possible 
transition between artificialist causahty (and especially 
the " participations " which lie at the root of artificialism) 
and causahty by identification of substances. In fact, at 
the point of departure of the explanations concerning 
the clouds and the rain we find various feelings of partici- 
pation — the clouds move when we move, they obey us, 
they come to make it night and to make us go to sleep, 
etc. ; the rain comes to water the plants, to clean the 
houses {cp. Pau), etc. At the other extreme of the series 

^ Annde psychologique, Vol. XXIII, p. 220. 



320 CHILD'S CONCEPTION OF THE WORLD 

of these same explanations we find a rational causality — 
the air condenses into clouds and the clouds melt into 
water, etc. How is the passage between these two types 
of explanation to be bridged ? First, the feehngs of 
participation between the clouds, the rain and ourselves, 
give rise to various groupings which further strengthen 
the artificialist myths when the child invents them — the 
cloud thus serves to warn us that God is going to make 
it rain, etc. There is thus built up a schema, in which 
the rain, the cloud and we ourselves form an indissociable 
whole, and it is this schema which gives rise to the arti- 
ficiaUst myths that the children make up in answer to 
our questions. Then when the artificialist conviction is 
in course of disappearing and the human element is thus 
dissociated from things, there remains the feeling of a 
relationship between the things themselves — the rain and 
the clouds are necessary to one another, etc. It is from 
this new — so to speak semi-rational — participation that 
arise the identifications of substance we found in the 
second and third stages. It is thus once more a case of 
a dynamic participation giving rise to an identification of 
substance, 

§ 6. The Explanations of Snow, Ice and Cold. — 
The origin of snow and ice may be treated very briefly, 
but their explanations must be noted since they have a 
certain interest on account of the connection the child 
establishes between freezing and cold. 

The explanations of the origin of snow and ice may be 
classified into three stages. During the first (up to about 
the age of 7) there is artificialism. 

Bois (5I) : " How is snow made ? — It is made hy men 
(des messieurs). — How? — They make it right up high. — 
What does that mean ? — They built it. — What makes it 
faU ? — They make little holes. — Where ? — In the sky." Ice 
is " snow that has frozen," that is to say that has become 
" hard." 

Stei (5I) : Snow comes "from the sky. — How ? — From 
little blue corks. — What makes it like that ? — God.— Why 
is the snow cold ? — Because it has ice. — Where does the ice 



METEOROLOGY 321 

come from ? — It comes from the snow which stayed when it 
was very cold." 

From about the age of 7 the explanation is natural. 
But two types of answer are found, each no doubt character- 
istic of a stage. During the second stage (about 7 to 9) 
the origin of snow is independent of water. 

Gut (8 ; 9) beheves, for example, that rain comes 
from steam. But snow comes from " the flakes. — Where 
do they come from ? — The sky. — Whereabouts in the 
sky ? — From the air." For Bui (11) snow is also of air, etc. 

Tau (6) : Snow comes " from the sky, and it's the sky 
that's turned into flakes." For Tau, snow turns into 
water and ice by being pressed together, but water doesn't 
change into ice or snow. 

For Rat (8) it is a mixture of water and sand. 

Finally, during the third stage after 9 on the average 
snow and ice are of frozen water. 

Gen (7) : " And where does snow come from ? — From 
water. It's dirty water. — How did the water turn into 
snow ? — From the cold." 

Ch.al (9): "What is snow? — It's rain. — How? — 
It freezes high up as it comes down. — What is ice ? — It's 
water that has frozen." 

It should be noted that even in the third stage ice is 
not always regarded as frozen water, but often as com- 
pressed snow ; whether the snow itself is thought of as 
frozen water or as a substance independent of water 
makes no difference. This fact is interesting since it shows 
in the first place that identification of substances pro- 
ceeds no quicker where the activity seems to come from 
experience (as with ice and water) than where it comes 
from imagination (as when the air changes into clouds, 
rain, the sun, fire, etc.), secondly, it shows a new attempt 
at explanation by condensation similar to those we have 
already noted, which consists in combining the clouds 
and the sun into condensed air, etc. It is true that in the 
case of ice each child knew by experience that a ball of 
snow when tightly compressed becomes hard and trans- 

X 



322 CHILD'S CONCEPTION OF THE WORLD 

parent. It is none the less interesting that he explains 
all ice as due to a process of condensation of snow. 

Gut (8 ; 9), who, as we have just seen, associated snow 
with air, replied as follows : " What is ice ? — // is the snow 
when it breaks up into pieces. — Why ? — Then it gets hard. 
— Why ? — Because it comes from the ice. — How does that 
happen ? — It is the snow and it goes into pieces." 

BuL (11 ; 8) said that ice, like snow, is " made of air." 
Ice " is made of snow." " What do you have to do to get 
ice ? — You must wait till it snows. — Have you ever seen a 
frozen fountain ? — Yes. — Can water freeze, then ? — Water 
and snow. — Can you make ice with water alone ? — No. — 
Why not ? — Because there is no snow with it." Ice is 
" squeezed " snow. 

Hend (9 ; 8) begins by saying that ice is frozen snow : 
" Must there always be snow before there is ice ? — Yes, 
because it gets hard and then it gets icy. — If I put a glass of 
water outside will there be ice or not ? (this was in winter) 
— Not at once ! There will be water at the bottom and a layer 
of ice on top. — WiU there be snow in the glass before the 
ice ? . . . — It is the snow which makes the ice." 

It is clear, that the identification of water, snow and 
ice wiih each other is only progressive. 

BuL (11 ; 8) said that " when ice melts it is only water," 
but he still refused to admit that snow and ice might be 
water : " Is it water ? — There is some water as well — And 
what else ? — // is not only water." 

How, then, are these substances identified with each 
other. Can we say here, as in the case of clouds and rain, 
that there is an active participation preceding the identi- 
fication of the substances with each other before the child 
understands the action of cold in freezing water. It will 
be seen that this is the conclusion formed from a- study of 
the relations of cold and freezing. Anticipating this 
conclusion let us reconsider those cases examined hitherto. 

The child comes very early to wonder if it is the cold 
which makes water freeze or if it is the snow and ice which 
bring the cold. But it happens that their explanations 
pass through two phases. During the first there is 
dynamic participation and at the same time participation 



METEOROLOGY 323 

of substance between snow and cold — one attracts the 
other or one produces the other. Cold, on the other hand, 
is a substance assimilated to the air. During the second 
phase, it is the cold which produces freezing and the cold is 
no longer considered as a substance but as the effect of the 
absence of heat and the result of the sun being hidden. 

The first phase is strongly charged with confusions 
between the sign and the cause and with artificialist 
participations which show clearly how the identification 
of substance grows out of dynamic participation. 

Roc (6) : " Why is it cold in winter ? — Because there is 
snow. — What is it that makes the cold ? — The snow. — 
If there were no snow would it be cold ? — No. — Is it the 
snow which makes the cold or the cold which makes the 
snow ? — The cold makes the snow. — And where does the 
cold come from ? — From the snow." 

Lu (5^) : " Why is it cold in winter ? — Because the snow 
falls. — It there were no snow would it be cold ? — No. — 
Why does snow fall in winter ? — Because it's cold. — Why 
is it cold in winter ? — Because God makes it cold. — What 
with ? — With his hand. — How ? — He pushes the cold along. 
— Where does the cold come from ? — From the street. — 
What is it ? — It's the wind." 

Gen (7) : " Where does the cold come from in winter ? 
— From the snow. — And where does the snow come from ? 
— From the water, it's dirty water.^How does the water 
become snow ? — Through the cold. — What is it which makes 
the cold ? — The wind." 

Pat (9) : " What is the cold ? — The cold is when the 
snow wants to fall. — Where does the cold come from ? — 
From the wind. — Why is it cold in winter and not in 
summer ? — Because the snow is cold." 

Hend (9 ; 8) : " Where does the cold come from ? — 
From the wind. — Why is it cold in winter ? — Because there 
is wind. — And what about those days when there is no 
wind ? — Then it's because of the clouds whick break up, that 
makes snow and that makes it cold." 

For these children, cold produces snow and snow 
produces cold. But what is the nature of this production ? 
Is it primarily a simple process, half moral, half physical, 
of setting each other free. The snow attracts the cold 



324 CHILD'S CONCEPTION OF THE WORLD 

and the cold attracts the snow, they lend each other a 
mutual aid. Thus for Pat, " The cold is when the snow 
wants to fall." Inversely for Pur the snow is to " show 
that it's winter." 

Pur (8 ; 8) : " Why does it snow in winter ? — It's to 
show that it's winter. — Why doesn't it snow in summer ? — 
Because of the fruit in summer. If snow fell it would spoil 
the fruit. — Why doesn't it snow any more when winter 
ends ? — To show that the winter is over." 

This is not a sohtary case, most of the younger children 
reply in the same way when asked to explain why snow 
comes — they even put the question to themselves. This 
fact throws Ught on the foregoing replies. The snow is a 
sign of cold, cold is a sign of snow, and each produces the 
other. This is at any rate the case whilst the child con- 
siders snow as having been made by God or by man. 
" Substantialism " follows, consequently, upon this 
dynamism. Cold is identified as a substance, as air, and 
this substance is considered on the one hand to emanate 
from the snow, and on the other hand to enter into the 
snow as one of its elements. This second attitude is the 
distinctive mark of the second of the stages which were 
referred to above. 

In fact the identification of cold as air is quite general 
amongst the younger children. We shall see many cases 
of it when studying the notions of children on the atmo- 
sphere (see Causaliti Physique). When the child is asked 
what the air is, it often repUes that "it is the cold " as if 
the cold was a material substance, and if it is asked where 
the wind comes from, the reply very often is "it comes 
from the cold." On the other hand, there are a large 
number of cases where snow and ice are said to be com- 
posed of air (see above the cases of Gut and Bui). Bui 
reckons that the cold comes from the snow and from the 
cold at the same time, thus: " It is the snow which brings 
the cold and the wind as well. — Where does the cold come 
from ? — From the cold. — What is it ? — It's air." 



METEOROLOGY 325 

In short, the reply in this first phase shows clearly 
enough how the participation, at first dynamic, between 
snow and cold gradually gives rise to an identification of 
substances, the snow and the cold being finally conceived 
as two bodies which are each the product of the other. 

During the second phase, on the other hand, the child 
discovers that the ice is due to the cold and not the inverse. 
As to the cold in winter it is still interpreted as being due 
to the wind and then by degrees the child learns to attribute 
it to the absence of the sun, etc. 

, Cein (10) : " Where does the ice come from ? — It's the 
wind which freezes water. — Why is it cold in winter ? — 
Because the wind blows." 

Baud (13) : " Where does the cold come from in 
winter ? — Because of the wind. — Isn't there a wind as 
well in summer ? — It's because the air is cold. — Why is 
the air cold in winter ? — Because there's no sun." 

ScHAW (10 : 8) : " Why does the rain fall Uke snow ? 
— Because it is cold. — Where does the cold come from ? 
— Because there's no sun. — Isn't there any sun in winter ? 
— No. — Where is it ? — Behind the clouds." 

To conclude, this study of snow, ice and cold confirms 
what we have already established in the case of clouds 
and rain, that is, that the explanation by identifying 
substances is not primary in the child but is derived. 
During the early years the child becomes aware of the 
existence of many material objects which it considers 
have been formed of three separate substances, namely, 
snow (and ice), water, cold (and air). Each of these three 
substances seems to it to have been made independently. 
The rain is sent by God, the snow is made of blue corks 
{bouchons), the cold is air sent by God or by man, etc. 
But, thereafter, the child discovers that between these 
substances there are dynamic participations, snow signifies 
winter, winter signifies cold, and the snow and the cold are 
mutually productive, etc. From then onwards, as soon 
as the child gives up artificialism he supposes that beyond 
these dynamic participations there are participations of 
substance, and he seeks to explain the substances one by 



326 CHILD'S CONCEPTION OF THE WORLD 

the other, the snow is derived from the cold and from the 
air, the cold is derived from the snow, etc. At length the 
development of his powers of observation shows him what 
is the actual order. It is the cold which causes freezing 
and not snow which produces cold. Thus, the three 
moments of the explanations by identification seem to 
be artificialism and dynamic participations, then identi- 
fication of substances, and finally the orderly arrangement 
of causal relationship. 

§ 7. Rivers, Lakes and Sea, the Primitive Origins 
OF Water. — If children reaUy have a tendency to arti- 
ficialism, this tendency should receive free rein in the 
explanation of rivers and lakes, and the study of questions 
asked by children would seem to show it. Many of the 
questions that have been quoted at the beginning of this 
chapter imply artificialism without any doubt. To ask, 
for example, why the lake of Geneva does not go as far 
as Berne is to suppose that there is a moral reason for 
that and that in consequence the lake has been planned 
and built . 

Children, when asked questions, give replies which may 
be classed in three stages. In the first of these stages 
everything has been artificially made — the bed of rivers 
and lakes and even water itself. During the second stage 
the bed has been dug out by man, but the water itself 
has a natural origin. During the third stage all of it is 
natural. 

Here are some examples of the first stage. Amongst 
them can be distinguished certain cases, probably of the 
most primitive children, who define the origins of water 
and suppose them to be physiological, others who con- 
ceive water as being artificially made without any con- 
scious or avowed physiological idea, and others finally, 
who make no sort of definition. This is probably one of 
the most primitive cases : — 

Roy (6) : " How did the lake begin ? — There was a 
hollow and somebody filled up one end. — How did the hollow 
begin ? — It was there, some man made it. — What is a river ? 



METEOROLOGY 327 

— It is a hollow with water in it. — How did this hollow 
begin ? — Some man made it. — Where does the water come 
from ? — When it's warm the water comes. — What does that 
mean ? — It's the heat. — How is that ? — Because we per- 
spire and then we are wet. — Where does river water come 
from ? — From a little tunnel.- —Where does the water from 
the tunnel come from ? — From a ditch (canal). — And the 
water from the ditch ? — Some man took the water from a 
fountain and put it in pipes. — But how did water start on 
the earth, has there always been water ? — No. — Where 
did water come from at first ? — There were a lot of men who 
spat a lot." And it was here that Roy told us what has 
been already related in § 5 about the rain. 

The interest of this case lies in the physiological origin 
that the child attributes to water. It comes from spitting, 
and from what one knows of little boys' interests, it is 
probable that this phrase is only a polite way of expressing 
ideas still more prosaic. It might seem like a poor joke 
to suggest that children think of micturition as the prob- 
able origin of rivers. But experience has shown us with 
certainty that the image crosses children's minds even 
whilst they are being questioned. 

Ju (7) states, like Roy, that river-beds have been dug 
out by men and that the water comes from fountains and 
pipes : " And how did the water begin in the pipes ? . . . 
(Ju turns very pink.) — Say what you think. It doesn't 
matter if you are wrong. ... — From the water-closet. 
..." (At this point, after he had blushed redder and 
redder, Ju's eyes filled with tears, and so we changed the 
conversation.) 

Her (7) : " How did the water in the rivers begin ? — 
It is the water which comes when it rains. . . . Sometimes 
it is water from the closet. That goes into the drains and the 
drains go into the Arve." As to the river-bed : " They dug 
a deep hollow." 

But here again the memories of deaf-mutes furnish 
decisive evidence : — 

D'Estrella in the autobiographical letter sent to William 
James and intended to complete the account of his 
memories of childhood, adds this as to the origin of the 
ocean. He went to the sea one day with his companions. 



328 CHILD'S CONCEPTION OF THE WORLD 

They bathed and it was the first time he had ever been in 
the sea. He knew nothing of its saltness nor of the 
strength of the waves. He was knocked over with his 
eyes and mouth open and but httle short of drowned, 
having no idea how to swim. He felt himself drifting and 
instinctively began to crawl on the sand, spitting out the 
water and wondering what made it so salt. He thought 
it was the urine of the all-powerful god, the " great strong 
man " who was hidden behind the hills. 

But it is clear that most children have not the capacity 
to frame these hypotheses whilst they are being questioned. 
They suppose the water to have been artificially manu- 
factured but they are unable to state how. 

Rev (6) : " Was the lake there when your father was 
little ? — No, not then." The lake is a hole which someone 
made. " Where does the water in the lake come from ? — 
From the fountain. — And the water in the fountain ? — 
It comes front a tap, and the water comes out of the hole, and 
then the boats go on it. — Who made the water in the tap ? — 
A man. — How ? — He put it in the tub and then it ran out." 

Grim (5I) says the lake is a big hole : " How was the 
hole made ? — By digging. — Who did the digging ? — Some 
men. — What for ? — To put water in it. — Or do you think 
perhaps it came by itself ? — No. — Where did they dig the 
water from ? — From the fountains. — Where does the water 
in the rivers come from ? — From the ground. — And the 
water in the ground ? — From the fountains. — And the 
water in the fountains ? — From the lake. — And the water 
from the lake ?■ — They fill up buckets and pour them into 
the lake." 

Rat (8) : " Where do the streams come from ? — From 
the lake, sometimes from the Arve.— Where does the Arve 
come from ? — / don't know, some people poured water into 
a big hole. — And what is the hole ? — Sume people dug it. — 
And where does the water come from ? — From the foun- 
tains. — And where does the water in the fountains come 
from ? — / don't know, I think someone made it. — How, 
what with ? — / don't know, with something. I think it was 
with the earth that they made it." 

These examples could be multiplied indefinitely, but 
they are all alike. This first stage on the average con- 
tinues up to 7 or 8 years. The second stage contains 
children, who, whilst maintaining that the rivers have 



METEOROLOGY 329 

been dug out by man, affirm that the water comes perhaps 
from the rain or perhaps from a spring fed by rain. The 
second stage continues on the average up to about the 
ages of 9 or 10. Here are some examples : — 

Bab (8 ; 11) : " What is a lake ? — It's a big round thing, 
a hollow where there is water. — Was there already a lake 
when your father was little ? — Yes. — And when your 
grandfather was Uttle ? — Yes. — And when the first man 
lived in Geneva ? — No. — Which is the oldest, the lake or 
Geneva ? — The lake. — How did it begin ? — It was water 
which fell. — Where from ? — From the sky. — And the big 
round thing ? — // was dug out. — By whom ? — By some 
men. — Who were they ? — Workmen." The case is the 
same for the rivers. " Which were there first, the bridges 
or the rivers ? — The bridges. — The bridges were made 
first ? — Yes. — Why ? — To cross over. — Why ? — Because the 
holes were there although there was no water in them." 

Gen (7) : " How did the Arve begin ? — With the rain. 
— And how was the hollow made ? — With machines." 

Bar (9I) : " How did the lake begin ? — With rain — 
And the hollow? — It was dug by men. — How? — With 
pickaxes. — A long while ago ? — Yes. — Which was there 
first, Geneva or the lake ? — Geneva." As to the Arve, " It 
was dug by some men. — Why ? — To make the river. — And 
where does the water come from ? — From the rain. — 
How ? Where did it fall ? — On the ground. — Where ? — 
On the ground, it soaks into the ground. — And then ? — It 
flows into the river." 

BuL (11 ; 8) : " How did the lake begin ? — It was dug 
out. — By whom ? — By some men. — When ? — A long time 
ago. — Who were they ? — The people long ago. — Why ? — 
To be able to go by boat to Lausanne " (!) (This explains the 
question asked by Dell at the age of 6| : " Why doesn't 
the lake go as far as Berne.") — Why ? — To be able to go for 
a trip in the boat or to go fishing. — Why ? — To catch fish. — 
Where do the fish come from ? — God and some men made 
the lake and God put the fishes in it. — Was it God or men 
who made the lake ? — No, it was God who made the lake. — 
Where did he get the water from ? — He made the streams, 
and the rivers met in the lake.- — Which is the older, Geneva 
or the lake ? — Geneva . . . No. . . . the lake." 

These few cases show how spontaneous artificialism is 
in children because when they are taught, or discover 



330 CHILD'S CONCEPTION OF THE WORLD 

for themselves, that water in the rivers comes from the 
mountains or the rain, they continue to think of the bed 
of the river as artificial. Moreover, between the second 
and the third stage, one finds a series of intermediate 
cases which show clearly the extent to which artificialism 
is rooted in their minds, if not as a formulated beUef at 
any rate as a general trend of mind. The following cases 
show, for example, in the form of natural explanations 
(characteristic of the third stage), a tendency of mind that 
is clearly artificialist (and derived from conceptions of the 
second stage). 

Chal (9) : " How was the lake made ? — It is water 
which has collected in a hollow. — Where does the water 
come from ? — From the mountain. — Where does the water 
of the Arve come from ? — From the streams. — And the 
water of the streams ? — From the mountains. — And how 
was the valley of the Arve made ? — It was worn out by 
the water. — Which is the older, Geneva or the lake ? — 
Geneva. — Geneva or the Arve ? — Geneva. — Why are the 
lake and the Arve just near Geneva ? — Because of the 
streams which run down.— V\^h.y here and not anywhere 
else ? — Because a lot of streams made themselves here. — 
Why is the lake beside the town ? — Because it divides it 
(Geneva lies in fact on both banks). — Why is the town 
beside the lake ? — Because ihe lake is made beside it. — 
Why ? — The streams come down to the town. — Could they 
have made themselves further off ? — Yes, perhaps men 
began it and the water of the river flowed into it." 

Chal's artificiahsm can still be seen to underlie his 
thoughts because against all probability he insists that the 
town is older than the lake. 

Par (9) : " Where does the lake come from ? — It is 
water." " Where does it come from ? — From the streams 
in the mountain. — Where does that come from ? — From 
the sky when it's raining. — How was the hollow for the 
river made 7- — It was dug out with pickaxes and also when 
the water flowed down from, the mountain it made a hollow. 
— Was it the water or the pickaxes ? — It was the water. — 
Has Geneva always been there ? — Of course. — Was Geneva 
there first or the lake ? — The town, you must have a town 
before a lake, or else the water would overflow everywhere. — 



METEOROLOGY 331 

Do you know the Arve ? — Yes, I know it all. — Was the 
town or the Arve there first ? — The town. They made 
the town then the bridges, then it began to rain and then there 
was water and it fell into the Arve and the Rhone." 

This last case is a remarkable example of the tenacity 
with which the artificiahst tendency asserts itself, even 
in the midst of natural explanations. These last cases 
are much more interesting than the primitive cases of 
the first stage because the tendency of the child's mind 
is seen more indirectly and, therefore, more reliably. 

Two cases follow belonging to the third stage in which 
the explanation of rivers and lakes becomes entirely 
natural. In the most primitive of the cases in this stage 
(for example the first of those to be quoted) it will be 
seen that the explanation is not mechanistic at the outset 
but that it passes first of all through a stage of eminent 
artificiahsm. A certain finalistic dynamism is attributed 
to the water which enables it to act for man's greatest 
good : — 

Bar (9:5): " Where does the lake come from ? — It 
comes from the rivers. — How, was it dug out }—The water 
hollowed it out. When the water was strong and there were 
big waves it drove back stones. — Which is the older, Geneva 
or the lake ? — Geneva . . . both at the same time.— Hov/ 
does it happen that Geneva is on the edge of the lake ? — 
Because if there had not been a lake they would not have had 
any water ! " The lake is thus explained by reasons which 
are at the same time mechanistic and finahst, the mechan- 
ism serving as a means to the end. 

Bur (12 ; 7) : " Where does the lake come from ? — 
From the mountain. — How ? — When there is snow on the 
mountains. It melts. — How was the lake hollowed out ? 
— By water. — And the rivers ? — Because the stones rolling 
along hollow it out. — Which was there first, Geneva or the 
lake ? — The lake. — Which was there first, the Rhone, the 
Arve or Geneva ? — The rivers were first." 

As regards the animism of children in these different 
stages, we can assert once more that artificiahsm and 
animism far from being mutually exclusive imply each 
other. In fact nine-tenths of the children of the first 



332 CHILD'S CONCEPTION OF THE WORLD 

stage think of the water of lakes and rivers as being 
conscious and alive, although they regard it as being 
artificially made without generally defining how it was 
made. As to the later stages, eight-tenths of the children 
of the second stage and a third of those of the third stage 
still think of water as alive and conscious, so that animism 
decreases proportionately with artificiahsm. 

We might proceed to examine the repHes of children 
who did not know Geneva, but they are so similar to the 
foregoing answers that it is unnecessary. We have had 
the opportunity of speaking to children at Beaulieu-sur- 
Mer and in the Valais about the origin of the Mediterranean 
or of the little mountain lakes. Mile Rodrigo has under- 
taken the same research in Spain and quahtatively the 
replies are the same. The sea is " a big hole and people 
have put water in it." — Where did this water come from ? 
— From pipes and taps" (7 to 8 years), etc. At Paris 
the problem is a different one for the children have not 
had the same direct experience of the facts of nature as 
they have at Geneva. Artificialism here is more extreme, 
but the stages qualitatively are the same, it is only their 
duration which varies. 



CHAPTER X 

THE ORIGIN OF TREES, MOUNTAINS 
AND OF THE EARTH 

We must now consider how the child explains the origins 
of raw materials such as wood, stone, stuff, etc. These 
questions are not raised in any formalist spirit, they are 
problems which interest at least a large number of children. 
In fact, all the questions that are considered here have 
actually been put forward by children. Thus in the 
collection of questions am.assed by Bohn ^ are to be found 
the following which were all asked by the same child. 
At 2 ; 6: "Papa, were theye people before us? — Yes. — 
Hon- did they come there .^— They were born like us. — 
Was the earth there before there were people on it ? — Yes. — 
How did it come there if there was nobody to make it." 
At 3| : " Who made the earth ? Was there ever a time 
when we were not on the earth." At 4 ; 9 : " What are rocks 
made of ? " 

Mme Klein in an interesting study * records the following 
quest ons between the ages of 4 and 5 : " Wie wird Holz ? 
Wie wird Stein ? " (" How is wood made ? How is 
stone made?"). The answer was given that stone had 
always been there, but the child replied " Aber woraus 
ist er hergekomnen ? " (" but what is it made out of "). 
Other questions relate to the growth of trees, of flowers, 
to the origin of dust, etc., in fact, all materials give rise 
to spontaneous curiosity and the very form in which the 
question is phrased shows in most cases that the child is 
expecting an artificiahst explanation in return. 

^ Pedag. Serrnn., 1916. 

* Eine Kinderentwtcklung, Imago, Vol. VII, p 251. 



334 CHILD'S CONCEPTION OF THE WORLD 

§ I. The Origin of Wood and of Plants. — We find, 
as usual, three stages in the evolution of the explanations, 
namely, integral artificiaUsm, a mixture of artificialism 
and natural explanation, and finally a purely natural 
explanation. During the first stage, wood is considered 
as having been artificially made from broken pieces of 
furniture or else it comes from trees, but the trees have 
been made by men, either by putting sticks in the ground 
or else by sowing seeds made by ishopkeepers. During 
the second stage the child understands that wood comes 
from trees and the trees from seeds or roots and further, 
the seeds are understood to come from the trees them- 
selves or from other plants such as wheat, but men must 
harvest them and labour in sowing them otherwise the 
trees would not grow. Nature is not yet thought of as 
being sufficient unto itself. During the third stage there 
is at length an entirely correct explanation. 

Here are some examples of the first stage which con- 
tinues on an average up to 7 or 8 years of age. There are 
two types of reply, those of children who have not learhed 
that wood comes from trees and those of children who 
have. These are examples of the first type : — 

Dar (4) : " What do you do to get wood ? — / don't know. 
— What do you think ?^ — You buy it. — Where from ? — 
From a woman. — And what did the woman do to get wood ? 
— She made it. — How ? — She stuck little bits together and 
made a big bit. — And how did she get the httle bits ? — 
They were made with nails. — How ? — By sticking them to- 
gether. You plant the nails. You plant things in the wood. 
— But the little bits, how does one get those ? — / don't 
know, whilst they are working, big pieces of wood fall down." 

For (4I) says that the wood comes "from the shop- 
keeper." " And what does the shopkeeper do to get the 
wood ? — He takes sacks. — And when he hasn't any more ? 
— He buys some from another man." And so on in- 
definitely. 

Lug (7) : " What do you do to get wood ? — You push 
it through a machine. — Do you have to put anything in 
the machine or not to get wood ? — Yes, you must put 
something. — What ? — You must put some shavings in." 



THE ORIGIN OF TREES 335 

RuD (7) says that the wood comes from the shop- 
keeper who gets it from another shopkeeper and so on. As 
to the first origin of wood it comes from " a man who 
breaks up cupboards." 

Let us now consider the cases of children better in- 
structed who know that wood comes from trees and that 
trees come from seeds. We shall see that their artificialism 
remains entire even in this second case, because even 
here the seeds are manufactured : — 

Ter (6|) : " What do you do to get wood ? — They 
make it with things. — With what things ? — With wood. — 
And where does the wood come from ? — From the forest. 
— How ? — God helps men to make the wood and then they 
plant it in the ground. — Where do they get this wood 
which they plant ? — First of all they make wood and then 
they plant it in the ground. — Are there sometimes new 
trees ? — Yes. — How are they made ? — You sow things. — 
What ? — Things that you buy in the shops. — How do you 
get seeds ? — They are made. — By whom ? — By people. — 
What do you have to do to get seeds ? — You must have 
round things. — Where do you find them ? — On the ground. 
— Where ? — In the fields, you move away the grass and then 
you take the seed. — How did they get there ? — They were lost 
whilst they were being sown. — \Vhere did they come from ? 
— From the shopkeeper. — And what did the shopkeeper do 
to get them ? — They were sent to him from the factory. — 
You don't find seeds ? — No, they are made." 

Blan (6) : " What do you do to get wood ? — You cut 
the trunks of trees. — What do you do to get trees ? — You 
sow seeds. — And the seeds? — You buy them. — Where? — 
In the shops. — And the shopkeeper ? — (thinks a little) 
He makes them. — What with ?—With other seeas. — When 
the first man came, were there already trees ? — No. — 
How did they begin ? — With seeds. — Where did the seeds 
come from then ? — From the shop." 

It is plain that the origin of the trees remains arti- 
ficialist. There is certainly no question of a creation 
ex nihilo, a notion which appears neither in infant nor in 
primitive cosmogonies. In trying to draw out the child, 
one always ends in working round in a circle. The wood 
is made of shavings, or the seeds are made of seeds. 



336 CHILD'S CONCEPTION OF THE WORLD 

During the second stage, the idea appears of the forma- 
tion of the seeds by a natural process, but artificialism 
is still vital to it in the sense that man continues to be 
necessary for the reproduction of the trees. Here are 
some examples : — 

Due (6 ; lo) says that wood " comes from trees. — 
And the trees ? — You plant seed and make it grow. — 
And the seed ? — You have to buy it. — From whom ? — 
From a shopkeeper. — And the shopkeeper, how does he 
get it ? — He makes it. — How ? — With a machine. — How 
do you make seeds with a machine ? — You put it in the 
machines. — What is it you put ? — The stuff that grows on 
the trees. — What ? — The fruit. — What do you have to do 
to get seeds for fir-trees ? — You take the cones. — And what 
then ? — You put them in the machine. — Can you make 
seeds without taking anything from the trees ? — No. — 
If there is no machine can you make the trees grow ? 
—No." 

Ah (7I) says that the wood comes "from the trees and 
the trees come from the seeds. You get the seeds at the 
factory. — Which factory ? — The seed factory. — What do 
they do at the factory ? — They make them. — What with ? 
— With corn. — Do you think that they make flowers with 
com seeds ? — Yes." " If there were no people would 
there be any flowers ? — No." 

Naturally those children who know the country better 
do not introduce the idea of the factory so much, but 
nevertheless they believe that man is necessary to the 
culture of plants. 

Bouv (8) says that fir-trees grow from se?d. As to the 
seed "you get it from the cones. — If there we'"e no people 
wouldn't the firs grow by themselves in the forest ? — No, 
because there wouldn't be anybody. — If there were nobody 
wouldn't there be any seed ? — There wouldn't be any trees. 
— Why ? — Because there would be no seed. — Why ? — 
Because there would be nobody to take them." 

This artificialist tendency is obviously deeply rooted 
even in well-informed children, and even in the suburbs 
of Geneva where all the children are familiar with the 
countryside. 



THE ORIGIN OF TREES 337 

There is another interesting question to ask children, 
and that is, why the leaves of trees are green. During the 
first stage the child repUes as follows : — 

Du (4) : " Because they have been painted." 
Frez (4) says that " it is the men who have made the 
trees in the mountains. — How ? — With wood. They found 
the wood and they found flowers and then they put them on 
the trees. — Why are the leaves of trees green ? — To make 
the trees pretty." 

Blan (6) says " They have been painted." 

Children in the second stage reply in this way : — 

Ol (6 ; 11) : " Because they are the new leaves which 
have just grown." 

Eyn (6) : " Why are the leaves green ? — Because some- 
one has planted the seed. — Why are they green, and not any 
other colour ? — Because it is the spring." 

Gio (7 ; 2) : " It's the spring which has made them so 
green." 

IwA (9I) : " The tree turns them green. — How can the 
tree do that ? — The roots make them green when the leaves 
come out of the root. — And where do the roots come from ? 
— From the seed. — What colour is the seed ?• — It's the 
colour of flowers. — Have you seen blue seed ? — No. — Have 
you seen blue flowers ? — Yes. — Well, how does that 
happen ? — There is a little blue in the seed. — Can you see 
this blue ?— iVo." 

The {preformist) tendency of this last reply should be 
noted. 

The first stage continues on an average up to 6 or 7 
years, and the second up to 9 years. The replies of the 
third stage are correct as far as the origin of the seeds are 
concerned, but children of this stage refuse to give any 
judgment on the greenness of the leaves or else they give 
the same repUes as those we have just seen. 

§ 2. The Origin of Iron, Glass, Cloth and of 
Paper. — Since these explanations do not provide muclr 
interesting material, we can deal with them very briefly. 

Amongst quite little children there is a stage which 
appears to be pre-artificialist, but in reaUty it simply 
denotes a period interior to a need for explanations. 



338 CHILD'S CONCEPTION OF THE WORLD 

Oa (4) said of iron that " you find it, it makes itself all 
alone." The same answers were given for paper and cloth. 

Frez (4) gives the same repUes: " You find iron. — 
Is it made or is it found ? — // is found. — Where ? — We 
have found it at our aunt's." 

Sal A (4) : " You catch it in water with your hands." 

This reply was given for iron, paper, etc. 

Evidently this stage, although coming before the period 
of explanations, is preparing the way for artificialism, the 
things being provided already, made in a cosmos organised 
for the needs of man. In these circumstances the earhest 
explanations will be entirely artificiaUst. Here is a clear 
case of transition in point : — 

Mass (6) : Iron " is found in the earth. — But where does 
this iron in the ground come from ? — It has been put there." 

The early explanations of the origin of matter are of 
two types. Sometimes materials are manufactured out 
of each other and sometimes they are made of pieces of 
themselves. Here are some examples of the first type : — 

Blas (5) : Iron is " made with wire," that is to say, 
" with quite thin iron wire," and this latter is made with 
" ordinary wire." Cloth is made " with grass." Glass is 
made " out of ice." 

Box (6) : Iron is made " with earth." So is glass. 

Co (6) : Iron is made " with glass." 

Ol (6) gives the same answer and adds that " You 
must heat the glass to turn it into iron." 

Fer (7 ; 9) : Iron is made of " scrap iron," and " scrap 
iron " is made of " solder," and solder is made from the 
" resin of trees." 

Vau (6) : To make iron you put wood into machines 
and to make paper you must put in glass. 

Ru (7) : Cloth is made with " cobwebs," and paper with 
" cock's-foot {Pattes de cog)." This last explanation comes 
from the fact that in Geneva rags are known as " Pattes." 

In short, machines are magic boxes which turn one 
thing into another according to those external similarities 
which seize the child's imagination. 

Mme Klein, in an article that will be quoted later, 
relates that her child at the age of 4 asked one day if the 



THE ORIGIN OF TREES 339 

spinach for dinner could be cooked long enough for it 
to turn into potatoes. This testifies to the beUef in the 
omnipotence of adult technique which we shall find when 
studying children's notions of machines. 
The second type of reply is as follows : — 

Dar (4) says that iron comes from shops and that 
little pieces are stuck together to make a big piece. 

Ben (51) says that glass is made out of broken pieces 
of glass. 

Ol (6) : " You find old bits of glass and stick them 
together." 

But these replies are made at the same age as those 
preceding, and are similar to them. 

These facts are only interesting so far as they show the 
tendency of the infant to believe in adult omnipotence. 
During this same period everything in nature appears to 
the child to be artificial or manufactured. Later, when 
the child discovers by degrees that machines are neither 
omnipotent nor mysterious, natural phenomena will 
become more and more difficult for him to explain by 
artificialism and this will give place to the purely physical 
explanation. 

§ 3. The Origin of Stones and of Earth. — The 
question of the soil is much more interesting than that of 
the foregoing materials. The child's conceptions are less 
at the mercy of adult influence and of verbalism. 

In raising the general question of the origin of stones, 
a concrete example was used. The children were shown 
a round smooth pebble hke those that they had all seen 
on the banks of the lake or of the Arve, and they were 
asked " Why is it round." When the child did not reply 
that it was worn by water we added the observation, " I 
found it on the bank of the Arve. Why do you think it is 
round." 

Three stages were observed in the explanations, namely 
integral artificiahsm up to 7 or 8 years, natural explana- 
tion from 9 to 10 years onwards and an intermediary 
stage between the two. 



340 CHILD'S CONCEPTION OF THE WORLD 

During the first stage the earth and the stones are thought 
of as having been made one from the other or both out of 
little pieces of stone. Here are some examples : — 

Dar (4) : Stones come from " a house. They are taken 
from old houses. — On the Sal^ve there are stones, where 
do they come from ? — They are planted in the ground. — 
Where do they come from ? — It is hard to say ! They are 
made of marble." 

Sala (4) : The stones " have been made." As to the 
earth " it is inside. — Inside what ? — Inside the stones." 

Blas (5) : Stones " have been made " with " little bits " 
of stone, and the earth " has been made." 

Zal (5) : " It's the men who build houses who make the 
earth." 

CouR (5) : " Where do the stones on the Sal^ve come 
from ? — It must be people that plant them." " How do 
tlie stones begin ? — You put cement, then after you stick 
them together, and then you hit them with a hammer and 
that makes them stick. — What does it mean that the stones 
are planted ? — You plant little pieces and then you put the 
cement and then you stick them together." 

Blau (6) says that there are stones even in the country 
" because the seeds were put in the ground. — What sort of 
seeds ? — Seeds of stones. — Where do they come from ? — 
From the men. — What are they like ? — They are round. — 
What use are they ? — Because they are planted. — What do 
they do when they are planted ? — That makes the stones." 

Hatt (7) : " The people took some gravel, sand and 
pebbles and they made stones." The stones in the country 
are there " because the men threw them there." The earth 
was made by men. 

Cuv (6) says that all the stones have been made by 
builders out of earth, the earth is broken stone. 

In the first stage then we find three explanations side 
by side between which nearly every child wavers. The 
first one consists in saying that the earth is made of 
stones, and the stones are made of earth, with the possi- 
bility of an intermediate material, such as sand. Secondly, 
the stones are made of httle bits of stone which have been 
left over. This is just what we have already seen in 
connection with wood, where it will be remembered that 
wood was said to be made of shavings. The conclusion 



THE ORIGIN OF TREES 341 

to which these two theories of the composition of matter 
lead becomes clearer as the child's explanations grow 
free of artificiahsm. This conclusion is an atomism united 
with the idea of the condensation or rarefaction of a single 
substance which is the basis of all kinds of soil. Thirdly, 
there is in many children, though not in all, the idea that 
the pieces of stone grow like plants. There are stone 
seeds and stones grow from them. You plant them and 
they grow, etc. These expressions do not seem to be 
merely figures of speech, what follows suggests rather 
that the child actually attributes life to the stone. But 
we shall see, as the examples quoted already clearly 
show, that this notion of life does not exclude that of 
artificial manufacture. Stones are made, they are planted 
and they grow. 

These interpretations receive their best justification 
from a study of the replies given by children to the question 
of the smooth round pebble taken from the Arve. This 
stone is indeed a concrete object with which the child is 
perfectly familiar, from having played on the shores of 
the lake or the Arve, and which it was possible to show 
him instead of merely describing. Furthermore, the elder 
children, even though they have just said that stones 
were made by men, replied at once that the pebble had 
been worn by the water, thus abandoning, when brought 
into contact with the actual object, their belief in artificialist 
myths. The younger children, on the other hand, retained 
their customary trend of mind. The following replies 
were obtained during this first stage : — 

Frez (4) : " Do you see this stone, why is it round ? — 
It is to put in the earth. — Do you know where I found it ? 
On the banks of the Arve. Why is it round ? — It is to put 
in the earth." 

PoR (4I) : "It is because they are made round." 

Blas (5) : "Do you see this stone, why is it round ? — 

Because it is made of flour. — Do you know where I found 

it ? On the banks of the Arve. Why is it round ? — 

Because it's made of flow." Stones in general are made 



342 CHILD'S CONCEPTION OF THE WORLD 

by people " with white flour " (he means cement). The 
pebble from the Arve is thus made hke all the rest. 

TuL (5) : " Why is it round ? — Because it wants to he 
round." " It is made quite round." 

Eyn (6) : " Why is it round ? — Because it's not like the 
others. — Why not ? — Because it wasn't made like the others. 
— You told me that you find them, and now you tell me 
that they are made. Which do you really beheve, that 
they're found or that they're made ? — They grow in the 
earth. — I found this stone on the banks of the Arve. Why 
is it round ? — / don't know why, because it was found on 
the bands of the Arve." It is clear that in this stage, the 
terms " made " and " grown " are not contradictory. 

WoL (7) : " It's round because it was made like that.' 

Cuv {6|) : " Because it was made round. — What with ? 
— With damp earth." 

Blau (6|) : " Do you see this round stone, where do 
you find stones Hke this ? — On the banks of the Arve. — 
Why is it round ? — Because there are lots of round stones. 
— How was it made ? — By some men. — Why is it round ? 
— Because they made them round." 

These facts confirm once again what has already been 
shown as to the association between artificiaUsm and 
animism. 

Before coming to the purely natural explanations of the 
third stage, we must distinguish and consider an inter- 
mediary stage in which the child is partly artificiaUst, 
though at the same time appealing to processes of natural 
formation other than simply that the stone " Uves " or 
" grows." 

The following is an important case intermediate between 
the first and the second stages : — 

Rob (7) : " Where do stones come from ? — You find 
them in boxes. You find a big stone. You break it, that 
makes a little stone, and then you make a big stone with it. 
(This is the process of decomposition and re-composition 
with which we are already familiar) — Do you see this 
stone ? Do you think you could make a bigger stone with 
it ? — Oh, yes, you could take a big stone then you could break 
it and that would turn it into a bigger stone. Oh, yes, that one 
would easily make a big stone, it's heavy enough ! — Look at 
this stone, why is it round ? — You find them like that and 



THE ORIGIN OF TREES 343 

you break them and then you make bigger round ones with 
them. — Do you know where I found it ? On the banks of 
the Arve. Why is it round ? — You break them and then 
you make them round." 

This case is very interesting. The weight of the stone 
is used to prove the fact that you can make a big stone 
with a little one. There is no question here then of a 
simple process of manufacture, but of a process which 
involves the capacity of the stone to be compressed or 
expanded. The particular pebble referred to is compressed 
and therefore heavy, and once it is broken in httle pieces 
it can be made up again into a stone which is not so heavy, 
but bigger. It is clear then that to the process of decom- 
position and re-composition with which we are familiar 
from the repHes in the first stage, a further conception has 
been added here, that of condensation and rarefaction. 
But this idea — in Rob's case still bound up with artificial- 
ism, as evidenced by the suggestion of compressing the 
stone — contains in germ the idea of particles of matter. 
We shall see later that some of the children of the third 
stage arrive more or less explicitly at this conception, 
Rob's case is then intermediary between artificialism and 
what may boldly be called atomism. 

In the course of the replies of the second stage, arti- 
ficialism can be seen to be progressively transferred to 
nature itself. 

Blase (6 J) : " Why is this stone round ? — To make 
fire. — How ? — By banging on it. — What with ? — With a 
hammer. — I found it on the banks of the Arve. Why is it 
round ? — Because the Arve made it round with water. — How 
did the water do that ? — It takes up earth and sticks it 
together." 

Ol (6 ; ii) says that men made the earth and the sand 
and the stones. As to the pebble it is round " because it 
was in the water. — What does that do ? — It makes it 
swell." And 01 adds, " When one drinks too much that 
makes one swell." 

Den (7). The stones are made of " dry cement." Den 
then changes his idea, " they made themselves all alone. 
The earth made them. I have never seen it happen." 



344 CHILD'S CONCEPTION OF THE WORLD 

Horn (5|, very forward in everything) : In order to 
make a stone "you take some clay and make the stone. — 
Have you been in the country ? — Yes. — Have you seen 
stones on the ground. Where did they come from ? — 
From the factory. — Here is a stone that I found on the 
banks of the Arve. Why is it round ? — Because it made it 
like that. — What ? — The water. — How ? — By making waves. 
— And then ? — They rolled the stone and it got round." 
After this excellent explanation Horn replied in connection 
with another black-and-white pebble as follows : " Why 
is this stone white on top and black underneath ? — Because 
it is made of sand and of earth. — Why ? — Because it is 
solid. — Who made it ? — The factory. — Do you believe that, 
but I found it on the banks of the Arve ? — It is the water. 
— What did it do ? — It turned it like that, it put the earth 
on top." 

It is quite easy to see the mechanism of these first 
natural explanations. The child substitutes quite simply 
a deliberate and artificial activity of water and earth for 
human art. It is true that one could interpret each of 
the expressions that have been recorded in a mechanical 
and not an artificialist sense, but taken altogether such 
an interpretation would not suffice for there is clearly 
here an artificialism which has become immanent, and 
which has been attributed to nature itself. In fact, all 
the processes which the children refer to (swelling, dilation, 
concentration, adhesion, etc.) are processes which in the 
same conversation the children attributed to a human 
technique, and in addition a systematic finalism is apparent 
in all these conceptions. Later we shall see in studying 
the explanations that children give of natural movements 
{Causalite Physique) that waves and water, currents, etc., 
are spoken of until a very late stage as being produced by 
a special dynamism and never as the product of a mechani- 
cal process. 

Here is an intermediary case between semi-human and 
semi-immanent artificialism of the second stage and 
physical explanation of the third stage : — 

Gerv (ii) says that he wondered where the earth came 
from : " / thought that it was men who had made it, but then 



THE ORIGIN OF TREES 345 

/ thought that that would have taken too long and would 
have cost too much and also where would they have found 
the dirt. — Well how did it begin ? — It came like that, some- 
thing fell out of the clouds, the clouds fell down and made 
the earth, the earth is just heaps of clouds. — And the trees ? 
— When the earth was made they came out from under the 
ground, there were little roots that came and gradually that 
made a tree." With regard to the clouds, Gerve had said 
a little earUer that they had come out of volcanoes. 

Here are some cases of the third stage, that is to say 
cases where the child explains the earth by the crushing 
up of stones and stones by the compression of the earth, 
but each of these explanations follow along lines which 
are exclusively natural. 

Bouv (9I) : " How did pebbles commence ? — In the 
earth. — How did it become stone ? — It hardened. — Why ? 
— It stayed there a long time and that made it harder. — 
How ? — In the sun it was the heat that made it harder. — 
Why ? — It dried it up. — If you break a stone what do you 
have then ? — Little chips of stone. — If you break up these 
little chips ? — That makes earth. — If you go on breaking 
it what does that make ? — Tiny little stones. — And if you 
break them ? — It makes dirt." 

Bouv said that you end up by having " little crumbs of 
earth." 

Stoe (ii) : " What do you do to get stones ? — It's dirt 
which makes stones. — How ? — Because it dries in the earth. 
— And then ? — It makes stones. — If you take two boxes, 
the same size, and put stones in one and dirt in the other, 
which would be the heavier ? — The one with stones. — Why 
does dirt which is lighter make stones which are heavy ? 
— The dirt is pressed together until it becomes heavy. — How 
does it get pressed together ? — Because it is warm. — What 
is a stone made of ? — Of dirt." 

Fal (9) : " How is stone made ? — It is sand which has 
got hard. — And how did the sand begin ? — As dirt. — If you 
break a stone what do you get ? — Sand. — And if you 
break the sand, what do you get ? — Finer sand. — And if 
you go on breaking it what do you get ? — It gets as small 
as flour." 

Weng (9:7): " How did stones begin }—With little 
bits of metal. — What is that ? — You find it in the ground, 
it's a sort of stone. — And how were the little bits of metal 



346 CHILD'S CONCEPTION OF THE WORLD 

made ? — With smaller bits of metal. — What are they made 
of ? — Of dirt. — And how was the dirt made ? — With 
pebbles. — How ? — By being broken. — What is earth made 
of ? — It is made of little bits of metal. — What is that ? — 
It's little bits of stuff all put together. — And if you break 
them ? — You could not go on because then there would be 
nothing at all." 

Without falling into the temptation of supposing that 
these children are putting forward an explicit atomism, 
we may try to distinguish in these replies how much is 
spontaneous and how much is suggested by the questions. 
The spontaneous element is the idea that the stone and 
the dirt are composed of the same material, but in varying 
degrees of density. This conclusion is corroborated by 
the idea put forward by children on the question of 
weight (see Causalite Physique). Children of 7 to 10 years 
always imagine that a body is heavier than another of the 
same mass because it is more " filled up " or " packed." 

From this notion to a rudimentary atomism is a short 
step and the questions help the child to make this step in 
seeking an explanation as to how stones are made (see the 
case of Weng) or in asking what would happen if the 
little pieces of stone were broken up (see the case of 
Bouv). 

Here is a still clearer case, and also a recollection of 
childhood by an adult : — 

Mart (ii|) : Mart was contrasting a smooth close- 
grained pebble and a cork. " It's funny, the cork is big 
and light and the stone is small and heavy, why is that ? 
— // is because of what is inside the stone, there are lots of 
little things, of sand, it is packed tight and there are lots of 
little stones in it, but the cork has got little holes in it." After 
that, a stone and some plasticine of the same size were 
compared, and Mart said that the stone was heavier 
because it was bigger. He was told that they were the 
same size. " Yes," he rephed, " but look at it quite near, 
it is not made in the same way. — What are the differences ? 
— The stone has got a little more if you look at it hard. — 
More what ? — More sand, more little bits." 



THE ORIGIN OF TREES 347 

Mart seems to think that the weight comes from the 
abundance of corpuscles of which a thing is made. 

A young man told us that he remembered among 
other memories of childhood having tried at about 10 or 
II years old to picture the composition of things like 
earth, stones, leaves of trees, wood, etc. He decided that 
it was the Uttle bits of them, spaced and grouped variously 
which gave rise to all sorts of variety in consistency and in 
appearance. He remembered particularly that the differ- 
ence in a large dry leaf and a fine green leaf seemed to 
explain itself thus. 

We can conclude that the child's conception of con- 
densation and rarefaction is a sort of transition from 
explanation by the transformation of heterogeneous sub- 
stances (air changing itself into water or clouds, for ex- 
ample) and a true atomism. A point of comparison in 
history can be made in the system of transition of 
Empedocles, a consideration of which gives further point 
to the replies recorded above. 

But it must be repeated that before considering these 
replies as really spontaneous, we must first analyse the 
very suggestive explanations the children give of the 
difference of the varying densities of objects. 

§ 4. Origin of the Mountains. — The explanations 
for the formation of mountains will allow us to define 
the exact relations existing between animism and arti- 
ficialism in the case of objects which are as evidently 
inanimate as rocks or the earth. 

Two stages were apparent in the collected replies. Whilst 
natural explanation was the characteristic of the second, 
on the other hand during the first stage the mountains 
were held to have been made by man. But, strangely 
enough, in half of the cases of the first stage, mountains 
were pictured at the same time as living in that they had 
grown. Here are some examples of this mixture of anim- 
ism and artificiaUsm : — 

Eyn (6) : " How were the mountains made ? — With 
stones — How ? — A mountain came, God put stones inside. 
— Inside what ? — Inside the earth. — And then ? — It grew 



348 CHILD'S CONCEPTION OF THE WORLD 

into a big stone. — It was a little stone before ? — Not so 
very big." 

Rob (7) : " How were the mountains made ? — Some 
dirt was taken from outside and it was put on the mountain 
and then mountains were made with it. — Who did that ? — // 
takes a lot of men to make mountains, there must have 
been at least four. They gave them the dirt and then they 
made themselves all alone. — But if they wanted to make 
another mountain ? — They pull one mountain down and 
then they could make a prettier one." 

Hen (7) said that the stones were put in the dirt, and 
then it grew, but he could not say how. 

CouR (5) said that " people had to plant the stones of 
the Saleve," and then afterwards it began to get bigger 
and bigger. " It was the grass which made them grow." 

Ol (6 ; 11) said that the mountains were in the beginning 
due to God and that they had grown, " and since then 
they have always been growing." "Is the Saleve still 
growing ? — No, because God did not want it to get any 
bigger. — Were they made or did they make themselves ? 
— God created them and then they made themselves." 

Origin in manufacture and growth are not, it is clear, 
contradictory for children. Obviously the child does not 
suppose that the mountain is really conscious, but yet 
when he holds that they have been made he still believes 
that they have helped to a certain degree in the process 
by growing and by making stones in the earth, etc. It is 
not on inert matter that man works but on something 
living. But for man nothing would be made, but with 
his help certain activities of matter are stimulated. 

There are other children of the first stage who do not 
seem to share these ideas but one may doubt whether this 
apparent lack of them is not a phase and whether at 
moments they share such views. Probably it is a simple 
question of emphasis, sometimes it is put on the act of 
manufacture, sometimes on the activity of the thing 
which is made. 

CouR (6) : " How did the Saleve begin ? — With big 
stones. — Where did they come from ? — People took them. It 
was a man, lots of men. It was twelve men. — What did they 
do ? — With stones.^ They took them. They put them on the 



THE ORIGIN OF TREES 349 

mountain. They put one stone then they made it like that, 
pointed." " Which was there first, Geneva or the Sal^ve ? 
— The houses came first and afterwards the stones." 

Gill (7) : " How were the mountains made ? — They're 

all of stone. — How did they begin ? — It was to make them 

go all round. (Geneva is in fact surrounded by mountains.) 

Big piles of stones all round. — What made it hke that ? — 

. . . It was men who carried them there." 

Rou (7) : The Sal^ve was made " by men. — Why ? — 
It couldn't make itself all alone. — What is it for ? — For the 
moon. — Why ? — For it to set behind." 

The following is an example in which the mountain 
although not manufactured is still conceived as existing 
for the benefit of man alone : — 

Due (6 ; 10) : Mountains " made themselves all alone. — 
Why are there mountains ? — So that we can skate." 

We have mentioned elsewhere {Language and Thought, 
p. 173) the interesting question asked by Del at the age 
of 6| : "Is there a little Matter horn and a big Matterhorn ? 
— No. — Then why is there a little Salive and a big Salive .^ " 
This question, in its very form artificialist, shows clearly 
the spontaneity of the child's tendency to regard mountains 
as " made for " us and in consequence as made by us. 
To this question of Del, children of 7 rephed as follows 
{Language and Thought, p. 227) : " (There are two Saleves) 
because there's one for little children and 07ie for grown-ups." 
" The little one's to climb and so is the big," etc. 

Finally, after the age of 9 or 10 on an average, a second 
type is found in course of which the children seek for 
natural explanations : — 

Den (8) : " It's the earth that has risen up. It's like a 
big stone. — Did men make it ? — No ! " 

Bout (9I) : " That's made with earth. — Did anyone 
make the mountains ? — No. They're high with earth." 

The conceptions concerning mountains thus clearly con- 
firm what we saw with regard to earth and stones. 



CHAPTER XI 

THE MEANING AND ORIGINS OF 
CHILD ARTIFICIALISM 

It remains to be seen if from the outset there is a common 
direction along which the different phenomena observed 
are moving. We shall not hide the difficulties of the 
problem — the replies collected may have been simply 
made up, or they may have been due to the teaching 
(religious or otherwise) the child had happened to receive 
from its parents or from others, and even if these answers 
show evidence of a spontaneous trend of mind they may 
be heterogeneous among themselves. Is there then an 
artificiaUsm belonging specifically to childhood ? Does 
this artificiaUsm obey laws of development ? Can one 
or more origins be assigned to it ? These are the questions 
now to be examined. 

§ I. The Meaning of Child Artificialism. — It does 
not seem to us possible to explain all the answers classified 
in the preceding chapters as due to romancing. If we 
apply our three usual criteria we shall, in fact, find as 
foUows. In the first place, children of the same average 
age give the same answers. In this respect the explana- 
tions of night as due to big black clouds and of the clouds 
as resulting from the smoke from the roofs, etc., are so 
many reactions whose generality is always striking. 
Secondly, the artificialist answers are not limited to one 
age or a single given stage, but they extend over at least 
two stages. It is thus possible to see a progressive evolu- 
tion of beliefs, which clearly shows their partially systematic 
character and excludes the hypothesis of pure romancing 



CHILD ARTIFICIALISM 351 

The third criterion, the arrival at the correct answer, is 
significant. In fact, the children of the last stage do not 
attain the correct answer or the natural explanation in 
one bound but seem rather to grope for it and during 
these gropings may be seen numerous traces of beliefs of 
the preceding stages. Thus, amongst the children who 
believe the Lake of Geneva to have been hollowed out 
solely by the action of the water, may sometimes still be 
found the idea that Geneva existed before the lake. 
To explain how the lake came to be situated beside the 
town, these children are obliged to turn to an immanent 
artificiahsm just as in the eighteenth century God was 
replaced by " Nature." 

These three criteria, taken together, thus lead one to 
suppose that, speaking broadly, the artificialist answers of 
the children tested were not due to romancing. 

Naturally, this conclusion does not mean that all the 
answers obtained are to be treated as of equal value. On 
the one hand, a careful distinction must be drawn between 
the element common to all the children of a given stage 
— for example, the idea that the sun was made by men or 
by God — and the embellishments that such and such a 
child adds to this conviction under the pressure of the 
questions — for example, that it was made by someone 
having lit a match. We have quoted the complete answers 
because the study of these embellishments brings to light 
many tendencies which would otherwise be missed, but, 
as regards the general problem that concerns us here, we 
may treat these individual elaborations as due to romanc- 
ing and retain only the statement that is common to all. 
On the other hand, it is obvious that the value of the 
general element itself varies according to the age of the 
children. Thus the attempts at natural explanations 
made by the elder ones (9-10) may be taken more or less 
hterally — the child who compares the sun to a condensed 
cloud really means what he is saying and is not exagger- 
ating his idea by the words used. The explanations of 
the younger children, on the contrary, present a mixture 



352 CHILD'S CONCEPTION OF THE WORLD 

of spontaneous tendencies with romancings evoked by 
the questions. Thus when a child of 5 states that the 
sun has been made " by men," the essence of what he 
means is simply that the sun has been made for us. Such 
a chUd believes in consequence that the sun is dependent 
on us, but generally without the question of origin having 
ever been clearly present to his mind previous to our 
questions. We must, therefore, seek what can have been 
the spontaneous tendency behind the answer. 

But this latent artificiahsm, which we maintain to be, 
broadly speaking, independent of romancing may perhaps 
be interpreted as the product of the education imposed 
on the children either by their parents or by observation 
of the hfe of their town. On one hand, the child is 
taught that a God has created Heaven and Earth, that 
all things are directed by Him and that He watches us 
from Heaven where He dwells. There is nothing sur- 
prising in the child simply continuing to think along the 
same line and imagining in detail the manner of this 
creation and supposing that God secured the help of a 
band of skilled workmen. On the other hand, the child 
is impressed by the industry he observes in his town 
(although Geneva is situated very near the country and 
all the school children are familiar both with fields and 
mountains). Lakes and rivers are bordered by quays, 
their beds are cleaned by dredgers, drain-pipes may be 
seen running into them from the banks, etc. Thence to 
conclude that nature depends on human activity miy 
easily be but a short step. 

But to this last interpretation may be opposed the fact 
that nothing compels the child to see in these phenomena 
only that which favours artificiahsm. Observation of the 
clouds might provide the child equally with suggestions 
favouring a natural explanation (their quantity, their 
height, the way in which from the town they can be 
watched forming round the mountains, etc.), instead of 
leading him to considisr only the resemblance between 
the cloud and the smoke from chimneys. Watching the 



CHILD ARTIFICIALISM 353 

rivers and the lake might impress the child with their 
size, the way the stones are thrown about, the wild nature 
of the banks in the country, rather than exclusively with 
the signs of human activity, etc. Such selection seems to 
result from an interest in what is artificial, the spontaneity 
of which can hardly be doubted. 

To regard this artificialist interest as entirely due to 
religious education is a hypothesis that cannot be borne 
out by analysis. A very pronounced artificialism may, in 
fact, be found among deaf-mutes or with children who 
are too young to have understood or generalised the 
religious teaching they may have received. The ideas of 
the deaf-mute d'Estrella on the origin of the stars (Chapter 
VIII, Introduction) and his ideas of meteorology (Chapter 
IX) have, in fact, been given. Another deaf-mute, 
Ballard, also quoted by James {loc. cit.), imagined that 
thunder was caused by a great giant, etc. Also there are 
the questions of children as young as the ages of 2 or 3 
asking " who made the world ? ", " who puts the stars in 
the sky at night ? " etc. Such questions have obviously 
preceded any religious teaching. But, even supposing — 
what is far from proved — that all the children between 
the ages of 4 and 12 examined had been directly influenced 
by the theology of the Book of Genesis, there remain three 
reasons for maintaining that the artificialist tendency we 
have noted is in part at least spontaneous. 

In the first place, we have been struck by the fact that 
the majority of children only bring in God against their 
will as it were, and not until they can find nothing else 
to bring forward. The religious instruction imparted to 
children between the ages of 4 and 7 often appears as 
something foreign to the child's natural thought, and the 
conceptions evoked by this teaching lack both the subtlety 
and the intricacy of convictions that make no appeal to a 
divine activity. 

Secondly, even if we admit that the child's artificiahsm 
is an extension of the theological artificialism imposed by 
education, it remains to be explained why the child, as 



354 CHILD'S CONCEPTION OF THE WORLD 

has been shown, thus extends to everything conceptions 
wherein the religious significance remains so vague, and 
still more why this extension obeys laws instead of differ- 
ing from child to child. Thus why do all the youngest 
children think that Geneva is older than the lake ? And 
how shall we explain such a general tendency as that 
which regards the night as made of black smoke, the sun 
as a fire produced by the smoke from the roofs, etc. If 
there was here nothing more than a simple extension of 
a type of explanation they had been given, it would seem 
that these conceptions ought to vary from child to child. 
But such is not the case. 

Thirdly, and this is the most important objection to 
be opposed to the theory under discussion, the child's real 
religion, at any rate during the first years, is quite 
definitely anything but the over-elaborated religion with 
which he is plied. As will be shown in the course of this 
chapter, our results entirely support the thesis of M. 
Bovet according to which the child spontaneously attri- 
butes to his parents the perfections and attributes which 
he will later transfer to God if his religious education 
gives him the opportunity. In the problem that concerns 
us now, it is, therefore, man who is thought to be omnisci- 
ent and all-powerful, and it is he who has created aU 
things. As we have seen, even the sun and moon and the 
sky are attributed to the activity of man and not of God, 
in at least half the cases. Moreover, when the child speaks 
of God (or " des Bons Dieux," as several boys said) it is 
a man they picture. God is " a man who works for his 
master " (Don), " a man who works to earn his Uving," 
a workman " who digs," etc. In short, God is either a 
man like other men, or else the child is always romancing 
when he speaks of him, in the same way that he speaks of 
Father Christmas and the fairies. 

In conclusion, it does not seem possible to explain the 
generahty and tenacity of child artificialism solely by 
the pressure of education. We are, on the contrary, faced 
by an original tendency, characteristic of child mentality, 



CHILD ARTIFICIALISM 355 

and penetrating, as we shall attempt to show, deep into 
the emotional and intellectual life of the child. 

But the essential of the problem still remains to be 
solved. Are the beHefs that have been Usted in the pre- 
ceding pages reaUy " spontaneous convictions," that is to 
say were they formulated by the child previous to the 
questions or should they be classed as " liberated con- 
victions," that is to say as beUefs aroused by the examina- 
tion and thus systematised partly as the result of our 
questions. 

It is here best to adopt the simplest hypothesis. This 
is that the majority of children had never considered the 
questions we put to them. Therefore, the belief con- 
tained in the child's answer was " hberated " by the 
examination. Two elements thus contribute to this belief. 
On one hand is the sum total of the mental habits or 
tendencies of the child questioned, but, on the other, is a 
certain systematisation due to the exigencies of the 
question set and to the child's desire to answer as simply 
as possible, so that the answers we obtained did not arise 
specifically and directly from the child's spontaneous 
artificialism. To liberate this spontaneous artificialism 
it is necessary to delve beneath the surface and find the 
true explanations that were certainly not in the child's 
mind in that form before the examination. However 
delicate an operation it may prove we shall attempt it. 

We must first remember that the child's thought is 
egocentric and as such intermediate between the autistic 
and symbolic thought of reverie or dreaming and logical 
thought. The convictions the child may have are, there- 
fore, generally not communicable or at any rate remain 
uncommunicated. Also even if nature and its phenomena 
force children to contract a whole series of mental habits 
they do not formulate any theory or verbal explanation, 
in the strict sense of the term, which incidentally makes 
the relative uniformity we noted all the more striking. 
Such as it is, the child's thought is much more fertile in 
images and is, above cdl, motor much more than conceptual. 



356 CHILD'S CONCEPTION OF THE WORLD 

It consists in a series of attitudes or motor schemas 
organised in some degree as mental experiences. But as 
yet nothing is directly formulable. Thus it is often found 
in making little physical experiments with the child — 
as, for example, submerging bodies in order to observe 
the displacement of water — that laws are often correctly 
foretold even when the verbal explanation by which the 
child supports his judgment is not only false but even 
contradictory with the implicit principles which dictate the 
judgment (see CausaliU Physique, § 3). It follows that 
a systematic type of reply such as was observed during 
our study of the stages of artificialism, implies a sum 
total of mental predilections in the child, although these 
predilections may differ largely from the verbal explanation 
put forward by the child during the course of the test. 

How are these impUcit mental predilections to be defined 
in the case of artificialism. In a word, the child conceives 
every object, including the natural bodies, as, to use his 
own terms, " made f or " a purpose. Now for a natural 
object, such as the sun, the lake or the mountain, to be 
considered as " made for " warmth, for boating, or for 
cUmbing impUes that it is conceived as made " for man " 
and consequently closely allied to him. It follows that 
as soon as the child is asked or asks himself how the sun, 
the lake or the mountain began, he thinks of men, and 
his mental predilection, which translated into words 
would be " the sun, etc., is made for man " finds utterance 
in the formula " the sun, etc., is made by man." The 
transition from " made for " to " made by " is easily to 
be explained when one remembers that the child, whose 
whole existence is regulated by his parents, regards every- 
thing which is " made for " him as having been " made 
by " his father or mother. Behind the artificialist formula 
hberated by the questions, it would seem to be the anthro- 
pocentric participation which constitutes the core of 
spontaneous artificialism, and the presumption is strong 
that this core is made up purely of feelings or mental 
predilections. It is this that we hope to prove. 



CHILD ARTIFICIALISM 357 

In trying to define the spontaneous tendencies which 
explain the repUes obtained in connection with animism 
it was found that the child's true animism, namely, that 
which existed prior to our questions, is purely " pur- 
p)osive " rather than explicit and systematised, except as 
regards the belief that the sun and the moon follow us. 
The child behaves as if nature were charged with purpose, 
as if chance or mechanical necessity did not exist, as if 
each being tended, by reason of an internal and voUtional 
activity, towards a fixed goal. It follows that when a child 
is asked if a natural body, such as a cloud or a stream, 
" knows " that it is moving or " feels " what it is doing, 
he replies in the affirmative because the transition from 
purposiveness to consciousness is imperceptible. But such 
a reply does not render the child's true thought, because 
he has never asked himself the question and would not 
have asked it except for our intervention, unless it were 
at the moment when he was on the point of losing his 
implicit faith in the purposiveness of things. 

The artificialist replies given to our questions on the 
origin of things justify us in making a very similar 
analysis. We may go further and say that the mental 
predilections which reveal the spontaneity of child animism 
are practically the same as those which likewise reveal the 
spontaneity of child artificialism. We shall understand 
then why the child cUngs so tenaciously to artificiahsm 
and by the same token why, at least at the outset, artificial- 
ism and animism are complementary. 

In fact, the child's purposiveness rests on the implicit 
postulate that everything in nature has its own raison 
d'etre in the form of an office or function that each object 
is called on to perform according to its own characteristics. 
In one sense this certainly involves animism, since without 
awareness things could not succeed in playing their part 
in the social organisation of the world. But this also 
involves commands and above all commanders, to serve 
whom is precisely the raison d'etre of the subordinate 
bodies. And it is obviously man who is thus felt to be 



358 CHILD'S CONCEPTION OF THE WORLD 

the chief and the raison d'etre of things. The idea of 
doubting such a principle so seldom occurs to children 
that it is never expUcitly enunciated — it being granted 
that a principle is never enunciated until the mind has 
been faced by a problem, that is to say before the funda- 
mentals of the principle have been directly or indirectly 
put in doubt. Animism and artificialism constitute, then, 
two attitudes of mind which are complementary to each 
other. From this standpoint let us reconsider the three 
groups of phenomena which seemed to testify to the 
spontaneity of the child's animistic attitude, namely, 
finaUsm, precausality, and the confusion between physical 
and moral law. 

In the first place, the child's finalism argues as much 
as and even more in favour of the existence of artificialism 
than of animism. Certainly, when he says that the sun 
follows us in order " to warm us " he attributes purposive- 
ness to the sun. But an examination of the definitions in 
terms of function (Binet et Simon) show that most of 
them are closely allied to artificialism. Binet, as is 
well known, has shown that if children of 6 to 8 years are 
asked " what is a fork " or a " mummy," they reply " it 
is for eating with " or " it is for taking care of us," etc. 
The universaUty of the definition in terms of function has 
been confirmed by all who have checked the value of 
Binet's and Simon's tests. Yet these definitions beginning 
with the words "it is for . . ." ("c'est pour") cover the 
whole face of nature and do not apply only to the objects 
and persons in the child's immediate vicinity {Judgment 
and Reasoning, Chapter IV, § 2). The same thing is found 
when one is careful not to ask for a series of definitions 
(which encourages perseveration) but when one asks point- 
blank in the course of an interrogation : " What is a 
mountain ? " or " What is a lake ? " A mountain " is 
for climbing up " or " for skating," etc. A lake is " for 
going on in a boat " or " for fishes " (in other words " for 
anglers"). The sun is " for warming us"; the night 
" for sleeping " ; the moon " for giving us light " ; a 



CHILD ARTIFICIALISM 359 

countryside " for travelling in " ; clouds " for making 
it rain " or " for God to live in " ; the rain " for water- 
ing flowers," etc. That such a viewpoint, not only 
finalistic but utilitarian and anthropocentric, should 
necessarily be allied with artificiaUsm, in other words 
that the definition " it is for , . ." should lead naturally 
to the explanation "it is made for ..." seems quite 
evident. 

In the second place, we have seen that the pre-causaUty 
evidenced by the questions and above all by the " whys " 
of children between 3 and 7 forms one of the closest bonds 
between animism and the rest of child thought. In fact, 
precausahty supposes such a lack of differentiation between 
the psychical and the physical that the true cause of a 
phenomenon is never to be sought in the " how " of its 
physical realisation, but in the purpose which underlies 
it. But these purposes belong as much to an artificialist 
order as to an animist order. To put it more clearly the 
child begins by seeking purposes everywhere and it is 
only secondarily that he is concerned with classing them as 
purposes of the things themselves (animism) and purposes 
of the makers of the things (artificialism) . Thus when 
Del {Language and Thought, Chapter V) asks " Who 
makes it run ? " when speaking of a marble on a sloping 
surface, he is thinking of the purpose in the marble for 
he adds " does it know you are there ? " — Here pre- 
causality tends towards animism. But when Del asks 
why there are two Saleves and not two Matterhorns, or 
when he asks why the Lake of Geneva goes only as far as 
Lausanne and not up to Berne, or when a child of 5 quoted 
by Stanley Hall^ asks " Why is there a moon ? " and 
" why isn't it as bright as the sun," etc., etc., it is of the 
purpose of the makers of mountains, lakes and planets 
that the child is thinking, or at least it is of men's decisions, 
which evidently implies that men count for something in 
the creation of things. 

Finally, in connection with animism, we laid stress on 

^ Pedag. Semin., 1903, Vol. X. "Curiosity and Interest." 



36o CHILD'S CONCEPTION OF THE WORLD 

a phenomenon which we shall often come across again in 
studying the explanations given by children as to the 
causes of movement (see Causaliti Physique), that is to 
say the lack of differentiation between the idea of the 
physical law and that of the moral law. Thus the regular 
reappearance of the sun and moon is due to the fact that 
they " have to " warm us or give us light, etc. Now it is 
quite clear that such a lack of differentiation bears witness 
to a tendency of mind which is as much artificialist as 
animistic. In fact, for children the moral law presupposes 
commanders, that is to say men who give orders, as much 
as bodies which obey. Certainly the sun must have some 
degree of awareness in order to be able to obey but also 
it must have someone whom to obey. This someone the 
child may well have never explicitly defined in its thought, 
yet it goes without saying that it is man, since man is 
the raison d'etre of everything. 

To conclude, if artificialism evidently does not exist in 
the spontaneous thought of the child in such a systematic 
and explicit form as it has necessarily assumed in the 
course of our interrogations, it exists none the less in the 
form of an original tendency of mind intimately connected 
with finalism and child precausality. This in itself is 
sufficient to justify our study of artificialism. 

§ 2. The Relations of Artificialism with the 
Problem of the Birth of Babies. — At any rate in the 
earlier stages, the child seems to experience no difficulty 
in conceiving beings as, at the same time, living and 
artificially made. The planets are living, they grow, they 
are born, and yet they have been made by man. Similarly 
mountains, stones, even seeds grow and yet have been 
artificially made. What is the reason for this combination 
of animism and artificialism ? To solve this problem it 
would be well to know children's ideas on the birth of 
babies. But it goes without saying that there are grave 
moral and pedagogic reasons for not pursuing such an 
investigation directly. Since we cannot experiment here, 
we must rest content with what can be found in children's 



CHILD ARTIFICIALISM 361 

talk which has been published or which we have gathered, 
and also with such recollections of childhood as bear on 
this point. We shall find enough in these sources to 
define broadly the ideas of children on the birth of babies, 
and these ideas wiU enable us to understand the true 
relations between animism and artificialism. 

Two types of children's questions are to be distinguished 
relating to birth, but it is not certain that these two types 
characterise two stages. Questions of the first type do 
not touch on the " how " of birth. There is no question 
of causality, strictly speaking. The baby is assumed to 
have existed prior to its birth and the child simply asks 
where it was before that event and how the parents have 
contrived to introduce it into the family circle. The 
relation between parents and children is a simple bond 
and not one of cause and effect : the baby is held to belong 
to the parents and its arrival is considered as having been 
wished and arranged by the parents, but no question is 
raised as to how the baby has been able to come into 
existence. Questions of the second type, on the contrary, 
show that the child wonders how babies are made and is 
spontaneously led to consider the parents as the cause of 
its creation. 

Here are some examples of the first type taken from 
questions collected by Stanley Hall and his students : — 

" Mamma, where did you find me ? " (F. 3 ; 6). " Where 
was I when you were a little girl ? " (F. 5). " Where was I 
when you were at school P " {G. y). " Where was I before I 
was born ? " (G. 7). " Where does the doctor find children ? " 
(G. 7).i 

The first of these questions is typical, the baby being 
clearly conceived as pre-existing the activity of the 
parents. The last two are less conclusive for when thj 
child asks " where ? " it may well be that he was thinking 
of the location in the bodies of his parents. 

^ Pedag. Semm., 1903, Vol. X, p. 338. 



362 CHILD'S CONCEPTION OF THE WORLD 

Rasmussen ^ notes on his daughter S. (3 ; 8): " Mamma, 
where did I come from ? " and later " Where do people get 
all these children from ? " Little R. (at 4 ; 10, that is to 
say 9 months after having asked questions of the second 
type as we shall shortly see) asked : " Where is the baby 
now that a lady is going to have next summer ? " Mme 
Rasmussen then replied : " It is inside her." To this the 
child retorted : " Has she eaten it then ? " which certainly 
seems to indicate the child's idea that the baby existed 
independently of the parents. 

To this type of questions must also be joined those 
beliefs that have often been noted in children according 
to which the dead become Uttle and are bom again as 
babies. 

" Do people turn back into babies when they get quite 
old ? " (Sully, loc.cit., p. 105-107). 

Del (6 ; 6) : " When I die shall I also grow quite small 
(that is to say like a dead caterpillar that he had seen 
shrivelled up) ? " [Language and Thought, p. 177). 

Zal (5), when his uncle's death was announced to him : 
" Will he grow up again ? " 

S. (5 ; 4) : " When you die, do you grow up again ? " 
(Cramaussel).* And then subsequently: " You never be- 
come little," and " when you die you become . . . nothing."^ 
The latter negations show how strong the affirmations must 
have been which impUcitly preceded them. 

And Mme Klein's child : And then I shall die and you as 
well. Mamma, . . . and then we shall come back again." ^ 

It is these questions of the first type which provoke the 
ridiculous fables told by certain parents, according to 
which babies are sent by angels, storks, etc. : — 

" Where has the baby come from. Has God let the baby 
fall down from the sky ? (G. 5 years) : " How did God send 
the baby ? Did he send an angel with it ? — // you hadn't 
been at home would it have taken it away again ? " (F. 
7 years) : " Who is Dame Nature ? Did you know she was 
going to bring you a baby," etc.* 

^ Rasmussen, Psychol, de I'enfanf. L'enfant entre quatre et sept ans. 

* Cramaussel, Le premier iveil intellectual de l'enfant, 1903, p. 165. 
' Ibid., p. 167. 

* Mme Klein, Imago, 1921, Vol. VII, p. 268. 

* Pedae;. Semin., Vol. X (article quoted). 



CHILD ARTIFICIALISM 363 

Now, one of two things must be true. Either the children 
do not believe these stories, which happens more often 
than would seem. Or else they partially believe in them 
and try to find out how the parents were able to make 
the baby come, starting from the implicit idea that it was 
the parents who arranged its coming. This leads to the 
question of the second type, to be examined next. 

From the point of view of artificiahsm, how are we to 
explain the questions of the first type ? It would seem at 
first that artificialism is completely excluded. The child 
does not ask how babies are made but where they come 
from ? Babies pre-exist. This points to a stage anterior 
to the need of explanation and, therefore, anterior to all 
artificiahsm. But such a way of interpreting the facts is 
obviously too simple. Behind what the child asks must 
be sought what he does not express because it seems 
evident to him ; it is the parents who make the baby 
come, that is to say who arrange its arrival, whatever may 
be the manner of the arrival. There is as yet no process 
of making involved but merely a connection which the 
child feels directly without having any need to state it. 
There is thus a sort of pre-artificiahsm comparable to 
the primitive artificialism we have often found with the 
youngest children — the sun, etc., has been connected 
with men from the beginning without having actually 
been made by men. 

On the other hand, questions of the second type reveal 
the desire to understand the nature of the bond between 
parents and children, the how of birth. Now an interest- 
ing point is that birth is conceived by the child as being 
an artificial process of production and, at the same time, 
a process bearing on matter endowed with hfe, and either, 
on the one hand, independent of the parents or, on the 
other, the fruit of the bodies of the parents themselves. 
In illustration of the first case the following examples 
show birth identified with artificial production : — 

One of Rasmussen's daughters, R., asked, at 4 years 
and I month : " How are ladies made ? " Mme Ras- 



364 CHILD'S CONCEPTION OF THE WORLD 

mussen replied by asking the child why she asked the 
question. " Because there is meat on ladies. — What ladies ? 
— You and other ones." And then the child added, " / 
think it's a meatmaker who makes them, don't you ? " At 
4 years 10 months she asks again, " How are people 
made ?" ^ 

Mile Audemars related the following spontaneous re- 
marks. Renee (7) had just had a little sister. She was 
making plasticine figures and pausing, asked : " Ma- 
demoiselle, what part of my httle sister did they make 
first ? The head ? " She was asked : " How do you 
think a httle baby is made, Rende ? Hasn't your mother 
told you ? — No, hut I know. Mummy still had some flesh 
over from when I was horn. To make my little sister, she 
modelled it with her fingers and kept it hidden for a long 
while." 

Sully 2 has quoted the remarks: "Mummy where did 
Tommy (himself) come from ? " To which Tommy rephed 
for himself : " Mummy hought him in a shop." 

Zal (5), whose comment on his uncle's death was 
quoted above, added : " Do we grow ourselves or are we 
built ? " " Grow " (" pousser ") here obviously means 
not get bigger {croitre) but to come quite alone. The child 
asks if babies come by themselves (if they grow again Hke 
the dead uncle) or if their parents make them. In the 
latter case birth is considered as a process of production. 

Cramaussel's daughter, S., declared at 5 years 7 months, 
when she was told that God made the babies : " He uses 
goat's blood for it, then."^ 

A httle girl asked where babies came from and added : 
" / know already, I should go to a butcher and get lots of 
meat and shape it." 

These remarks make it clear how animism and artificial- 
ism in the child's conceptions come to be complementary 
and not contradictory. The idea of manufacturing living 
material presents no difficulty since babies themselves 
are manufactured. And as we shall see presently, ques- 
tions about birth are often the starting-point for questions 
on the origin of things in general. From its very roots, 

^ Rasmussen, op. cit., pp. 48-51. 

• Loc. ctt., p. 109. 

• Cramaussel, op. cit., p. 130. 



CHILD ARTIFICIALISM 365 

then, artificialism assumes the ideas of life and of artificial 
production to be complementary to each other. 

On the other hand, children come very early to grasp 
the conception that the material out of which parents 
make children is the fruit of their own bodies : — 

Children's beUefs have often been quoted according to 
which babies come from their parents' blood, from their 
mouths, from their stomachs, or from their navels.^ 

A little girl of 4^ asserted that if she were to fall down, 
she would break up into two little girls and so on.^ 

Clan, whose recollections have already been quoted 
(Chapter IV, § 2) believed for several years that a son 
simply came out of his father's penis for, as he said, he 
had heard tell that fathers continued in their sons (" les 
fi s sont le prolongement des peres "). 

We have found ourselves, in those recollections of child- 
hood we have been able to collect, the ideas, well known 
to psycho-analysis, that the baby came out of the anus 
and is made from excretum, or that it is in the urine, or 
again that birth is due to a special food that mothers 
consume for that purpose. Mile Audemars has called 
our attention to the following observations : Dol (7^) 
asked : " What do mummies eat to be able to make babies ? " 
To which Ray (7) replied: " They must eat lots of meat 
and lots of milk." 

The interesting point is, that where the child knows 
quite well — from having been told — that the baby comes 
out of the mother's body, it continues to wonder as to the 
manner in which each particular limb was made as if 
there were a separate and special process for each organ. 
Thus Mme Klein's child asked : " But where does its little 
head come from ? " " Where do its little legs come from ? " 
" Where does its little stomach come from ? " etc. Another 
child, who had been told that a baby comes from its 
mother's stomach, asked : " But how can she put her hands 
in her stomach to make it ? " 

In order to understand how these spontaneous in- 
quiries by children into the problem of birth can have 

^ Spi'elrcin, Zentralbl. f. Psychoanal., Vol. Ill, 1912, pp. 66-68. 
* Spielrein, Intern. Zeitschy. f. Psychoanal., VI, 1920, p 156 



366 CHILD'S CONCEPTION OF THE WORLD 

a bearing on the development of artificialism we must 
now try to determine broadly the chronology of questions 
relating to the origin of things. As a matter of fact, the 
spontaneous curiosity of children plays on the origins 
of all things, and this point is fundamentally important, 
since, in itself, it justifies the researches described in the 
last three chapters. The most superficial examination 
of children's questions between 3 and 7 years shows that 
the child asks how the planets, the sky, clouds, wind, 
mountains, rivers and ocean, raw matter, earth, the 
universe, even how God himself, commenced. The most 
metaphysical questions, such as that of the primal cause, 
are raised at the ages of 6 or 7. Rasmussen's httle girl, R., 
was told at 7 years, that God made the first man. " Well," 
she replied, " who made God ? " etc. The important thing 
is to find out whether the question on origins in general 
precedes that on birth, and thus conditions its form, or 
whether the inverse is the case. 

Facts seem to furnish an unambiguous reply. The 
succession of interests seems to be as follows : first an 
interest in birth, then in the origin of the race, and at last 
in the origin of things in general. Here are four groups 
of facts conforming to this classification : — 

Ballard, one of the deaf-mutes quoted by James 
(Chapters VIII and IX), asked at about the age of 5 how 
children were born. When he had acquired a rough idea 
of the truth he began to wonder how the first man had 
come into being. Thence his interest turned to the 
birth of the first animal, the advent of the first plant, 
and finally (towards 8 or 9) to the origin of the sun, the 
moon, the earth, etc. 

Bohn 1 noted in his son, questions asked in this order. 
At 2 ; 3 : " Where do eggs come from ? " Having been told, 
he asked: "Well, what do mummies lay?" At 2; 6: 
" Papa, were there people before us? — Yes. — How did they 
come there ? — They were bom just like us. — Was the earth 
there before there were people on it ? — Yes. — How did it get 
here if there were no people to make it ?" At 3 ; 7 : " Who 
made the earth? " At 4 ; 5 : " Was there a nvummy before 

^ Pedag. Semin., 1916. 



CHILD ARTIFICIALISM 367 

the first mummy? " At 4 ; 9 : " How did the first man get 
here without having a mummy?" Then finally at 4:9: 
" How was water made ? " and " What are rocks made of ? " 

Rasmussen's daughters seem to have followed the same 
sequence. R., having asked how ladies were made, asked 
a month later, " Who made the birds ? " — a question of an 
artificiaUst character all the more interesting at this age 
because no one had spoken to her of rehgion. At 3 ; 8, S. 
asked how babies were bom, at 4|, how the first man had 
begun, and a Uttle later where the first horse came from. 
Her own reply was, " / think it must have been bought," 
which clearly shows that she thought it had been made 
artificially. 

But the clearest example is furnished by Mme Klein. 
At 4I her child had begun to concern himself about birth. 
The first question was phrased thus : " Where was I when 
I had not yet come on the earth ? " Then came the question: 
" How is a man made ? " (" Wie wird ein Mensch ? ") 
which was repeated often. Following the question : 
" Mummy, how did you come on the earth ? " The child 
was given an explanation of childbirth, but several days 
later, he asked again : " How do you grow big ? " " Where 
does its little head and its litttle stomach come from ? " etc. 
And then after these, came another series of questions : 
" How do trees grow ?" " How do flowers grow ?" " How 
are streams made? and rivers? and the dust?" "How 
do boats come on the Danube ? " He also asked where 
raw materials came from and above all, " Where does 
glass come from ? " 

We can assume then, that in all probability it is 
curiosity concerning birth which is the starting-point of 
questions of origin, so numerous between 4 and 7 years, 
and in consequence the source of child artificiaUsm. It is 
true that there will be children who ask questions about 
origins before they ask them about birth but even here 
the question arises whether it is not an interest in birth 
which, thwarted and projected, is not at the root of these 
questions about origins. 

What is to be observed in any case — and the point must 
be stressed so that the relation of the problem of birth to 
artificiaUsm stands out more clearly — is an evolution of 
myths relating to the origin of man in the sense of an 



368 CHILD'S CONCEPTION OF THE WORLD 

artificialism increasingly immanent, that is to say, attri- 
buted to nature itself. 

In fact, shortly after having occupied himself with the 
question of birth, the child asks himself almost infallibly 
what can have been the manner of the original appearance 
of man on the earth. The younger ones, between 4 and 5, 
respond with a purely artificialist solution, which involves 
explaining man by man himself in a manner which actu- 
ally only shelves the problem. That is Marsal's explana- 
tion, a defective who will be quoted in the next section. 
He explains everything by assuming a pair of ancestors 
who have created everything. But amongst children of 
7 to 9, very interesting solutions are to be found, according 
to which man is descended from animals or plants and 
these latter from nature herself. Nature becomes the 
principle of artificial production in conformity with the 
immanent artificialism which we have seen in children of 
9 to 10 years. Here are two clear examples : — 

Ballard, the deaf-mute quoted above, finished by con- 
vincing himself that the first man must have been bom 
from an old tree-trunk. Afterwards the notion seemed to 
him to be stupid but he could not think of anything better 
to replace it. 

Vo (9), who was asked how Switzerland began, either 
did not understand the question or confused the origins 
of Switzerland with those of humanity and replied thus : 
" Some people came — Where from ? — / don't know. There 
were bubbles in the water, ivith a little worm underneath. 
Then it got big and came out of the water and fed and grew 
arms and teeth and feet and a head and it turned into a baby. 
— Where did the bubble come from ? — From the water. 
The worm came out of the water and the bubble broke and the 
worm came out. — What was there at the bottom of the 
water ? — The bubble which came out of the ground. — And 
what happened to the baby ? — He got big and had babies. 
By the time he died the babies had children. Later on some 
of them became French, some German, some Savoyards. . . ." 

The interest of this myth is clear enough even if it is a 
piece of romancing. The relation of its content with the 
Freudian symbols of dreams of birth is evident. It is 



CHILD ARTIFICIALISM 369 

well enough known how frequently water is associated in 
dream thought with the idea of birth. And again eggs 
(frogs' eggs, etc.) and bubbles, being the symbols of eggs, 
are frequently associated with the same motive. Finally, 
the image of a worm often appears in dream symbolism 
as associated with the idea of babies, etc. If once the 
principle of the symbolism of subconscious thought is 
admitted, even reducing assumptions to their minimum, 
Vo's myth cannot be regarded as anything but the 
symbolical transposition of the idea of birth. In other 
words, the water would stand for the urine in which 
children often believe babies are born (and we have seen 
what a large number of children tend to ascribe lakes 
and oceans to human activity on these hnes), the bubble 
would represent an egg, the worm a baby coming out of 
the body. All this urges Vo to beUeve that nature has 
made man. If the principle of symbolism is not admitted 
it is none the less <:lear that Vo has simply transferred to 
nature what some years earUer he would have attributed 
to man alone. In either case we see how nature becomes 
the depositary of the productive activity of man. 

To conclude, children's ideas on the birth of babies or 
on the origins of man follow the same laws as their ideas 
on nature in general, namely, artificiahsm as the starting- 
point and natural explanation accompanied by traces of 
immanent artificiahsm in the superior stages. But it 
seems that the questions they ask about birth are the 
source of those on general origin and not the inverse. 
From this it appears that in the ideas of children on birth 
lies the explanation of the basic interdependence of arti- 
ficiahsm and animism. A baby being considered as at 
the same time artificially made and living, the child has 
the tendency to consider aU things as possessing the same 
characteristics. 

§ 3. The Stages of Spontaneous Artificialism and 
THEIR Relations with the Development of Animism. — 
We are now within reach of discovering on broad lines 
the relations between animism and artificiahsm. To this 



370 CHILD'S CONCEPTION OF THE WORLD 

end, let us distinguish the four periods in the development 
of artificialism and try to define, in connection with each, 
what is the corresponding development in animism. 

The first period is that during which the child has not 
yet raised the question of the origin — in other words of 
the manufacture — of things. The only questions about 
origin are those asked in the form " Where does so-and-so 
come from ? " and which have a spatial rather than a 
causal end in view. If those questions about birth of the 
first type constitute a stage at all (those which consist 
in asking where the baby is before birth) it is here that 
this first stage should be placed. During this period there 
is, if one may use the term, diffuse artificialism. That 
means that nature is conceived as being controlled by 
men or at least as centring around them. But the child 
does not try to define the manner of this activity and can- 
not give any reply to questions about origin, and thus 
this period is anterior to the first stages which we dis- 
tinguished in analysing the manifestations of artificialism. 
During this period magic, animism, and artificialism are 
completely merged. The world is a society of hving 
beings controlled and directed by man. The self and the 
external world are not clearly delimited. Every action is 
both physical and psychical. The only reality then is a 
complex of purposive actions which presuppose active 
beings and in this sense there is animism. But these 
actions are either distantly or closely controlled by man, 
and in this sense, there is an artificiahsm at least diffuse. 
Moreover, this artificialism can just as well be magical as 
direct, from the fact that man's will acts as well at a 
distance as otherwise. 

Take as an example of this stage Roy's first replies 
(those reported in § i of Chapter VIII) — only a part of 
them, it is true, for he already defines the origins of the 
sun (a fact which could place them just as well in the 
succeeding stage). The sun, Roy says, began to exist and 
got bigger " because we began to exist " and " because we 
got bigger." From his point of view, then, there is spon- 



CHILD ARTIFICIALISM 371 

taneous life in things (animism) but there is also the 
action of man on things. Only this artificialism is not 
spontaneously accompanied by a myth about origins and, 
further, it contains no magic element. Most children do 
not get past this period as far as the majority of natural 
bodies is concerned, but as soon as they try to define the 
origins of any particular body they thereby pass into the 
second period. 

Or again, as examples of this first period may be taken 
the most primitive of those cases where it is believed 
that the sun, the moon and the clouds follow us. In the 
one case, these heavenly bodies follow us voluntarily 
(animism). In the other, their sole function is to follow 
us and look after us by giving us Ught and warmth — they 
are " made for us" (artificialism). And finally, it is we 
who make them move (magic). 

In short, during this first period the child projects into 
all things the same relation which it feels to subsist be- 
tween him.self and his parents. On the one hand, he feels 
himself free and aware of his self. On the other, he knows 
himself to be dependent on his parents and he conceives 
them as being the cause of all that he possesses. Finally, 
he feels between himself and them a mass of participations 
even when he is separated from them. 

The second period, which we shall call that of mytho- 
logical artificialism, appears as soon as the child asks 
himself questions about the origins of things or can reply 
to questions which he may be asked on this subject. 
From this moment, the artificiahsm which hitherto has 
been diffuse becomes moie sharply defined in a number 
of myths such as those we have recounted. Thus the sun 
is no longer conceived as being simply dependent on men, 
but as having been made by men out of a stone or a match. 
Between these myths (usually " liberated " but some- 
times spontaneous, as the study of children's questions 
proves), and the diffuse artificialism of the first period, 
there are at the roots — other things being equal — the 
same relations as those that M. L^vy-Bruhl has stressed 



372 CHILD'S CONCEPTION OF THE WORLD 

as existing between the first stage of primitive mentality, 
where participations are simply felt and hved, and a 
second stage where participations begin to be formulated 
and thus give rise to myths about origins. 

It is to this period of mythological artificialism that 
the first stage distinguished in the earlier chapters must 
be assigned, that is, the stage during which there is integral 
artificiahsm and where the sun, the sky, the night, moun- 
tains, rivers, etc., are directly manufactured by men. 
During this period animism and artificialism are still 
completely complementary, things are manufactured and 
living at one and the same time. Their manufacture is 
comparable to the birth of babies, which are conceived 
as having been to some extent moulded with the hands, 
even when the child knows that the material of which they 
are composed comes from the parents themselves. 

This resemblance between manufacture and birth is 
the more clearly marked during this period in that certain 
natural bodies are conceived as coming out of man. These 
notions are probably much more common than the children 
have admitted. In any case, we have noted that the wind 
has been identified with human breathing, fog with ex- 
halation, rivers and the sea with spittle or urine, etc. If 
one thinks of the symbohcal contents possible in autistic 
conceptions, such as the highly probable associations 
between water and urine and birth, between the earth and 
birth (children tend quite spontaneously to connect death 
with birth — dead people " grow again ") or even between 
the sky, clouds and birth, it wiU be sean to what extent 
the external world can be assimilated in children's latent 
tendencies to a collection of UvJng bodies bound up with 
human Ufe. Whatever these hypotheses may be worth, 
there remains a whole body of fact, verifiable by direct 
observation, which shows that during this period of mytho- 
logical ari:ificialism things appear to the child to be at the 
same time living and manufactured. Artificiahsm and 
animism still imply each other without let or hindrance. 

We shall call the next period that of technical artificial- 



CHILD ARTIFICIALISM 373 

ism. It corresponds broadly with the second of the stages 
distinguished in the prtceding chapters (when there are 
three stages), that is to say conditioned (or mitigated) 
artificiahsm (a mixture of natural and artificialist ex- 
planations). In other words, this second period extends 
from the ages of 7-8 to 9-10 on the average. Now, as we 
shaU see later {Causalite Physique) this is the age which 
marks the moment where the child's interest begins to 
turn towards the details of machines and the proceedings 
of human technique. It is, for example, at about 8 years 
on the average that boys at Geneva no less than at Paris 
are able to give from memory the correct explanation of 
the mechanism of a bicycle. Generally speaking, the child 
becomes capable of understanding a simple mechanical 
operation (a steam-engine, etc.). Ideas about crafts and 
the working-up of raw material become clearer. Such 
facts, of course, react on artificiahsm. Hitherto, without 
his asking " how ? ", the child has conceived aU nature 
as being made by man, or even more, he has never thought 
of doubting the comprehensive scope of human technique. 
A machine seemed to him a box of magic out of which 
everything could be produced from nothing. Henceforth, 
on the contrary, the " how " of production becomes a 
problem for him. To state this " how " is to state the 
difficulties and to renounce belief in human omnipotence ; 
in short, it is to learn to know reahty and its laws. Thence- 
forth the reaction of these new interests on artificiahsm 
will be thus. The child will continue to attribute to man 
the general disposition of things whilst limiting his activity 
to operations which are technically realisable. For the 
rest, it is things which, set in motion by men have per- 
fected nature by natural processes. At this point artificial- 
ism is on the wane ; it is supported, in fact, by the laws 
of nature. This is the mitigated artificiahsm which we 
caU " technical artificiahsm." For example, the child no 
longer asserts that everything connected with the cir- 
culation of water is man's handiwork. He will say that 
man fashioned watercourses and the beds of lakes, but 



374 CHILD'S CONCEPTION OF THE WORLD 

that water falls from the clouds by a natural process. The 
planets are no longer the exclusive work of man — they 
result, in the child's view, from the combustion and 
condensation of smoke clouds, the smoke itself having 
come from chimneys, etc. The explanation, it wiU be 
seen, ceases to mythological. It becomes defined in two 
senses, it demands of human technique only that which 
the latter could reasonably be expected to produce and it 
assigns to natural processes the task of perfecting what 
man has inaugurated. 

As to the relations between technical artificialism and 
animism, in comparison with those of the preceding 
periods they show a retrogressive movement — artificiahsm 
and animism become contradictory. In point of fact, if 
artificialism weakens it is because the resistance of 
material things is in part recognised. For the purely 
moral laws which, from the child's point of view, have 
hitherto ruled nature, there is gradually substituted a 
physical determinism. One may definitely assert that 
during this period children no longer attribute hfe to 
everything but they distinguish imparted movement from 
inherent movement and attribute life and consciousness 
only to those bodies animate with inherent movement 
(the planets, the wind, etc.). As a consequence, the 
manufactured bodies cease to be regarded as living, and 
living bodies cease to be regarded as manufactured. From 
this time on, children assert explicitly that such and such 
an object cannot know or feel anything " because it has 
been made." 

Finally, towards the ages of 9-10 there appears a fourth 
period of immanent artificialism. This period corresponds 
to the third of the stages which we distinguished in the 
preceding chapters (where the explanations offered by 
children in respect of a given phenomenon were classified 
in three stages), that is to say in the stage where the idea 
that nature is made by man disappears entirely. But as 
we often emphasised in connection with the details of 
explanations given by children, artificialism is only 



CHILD ARTIFICIALISM 375 

eclipsed then under its human or theological form to be 
transferred simply to nature itself. In other words, 
nature inherits the attributes of man and manufactures 
in the style of the craftsman or artist. The facts, it will 
be remembered are as follows. It is at first finahsm which 
persistently outlives the artificialism of the later stages. 
Thus the sun, even when it is conceived of as being entirely 
independent of human manufacture, still is held to have 
been " made for " the purpose of giving us warmth, Hght, 
etc. The clouds, though due to natural evaporation, con- 
tinue to be " made for " the purpose of bringing us rain, 
etc. All nature is imbued with purpose. Next comes the 
idea of the generation of bodies which is comparable to 
birth — the stars come out of the sun and go back into it 
sometimes, lightning condenses into planets or comes out 
of the planets, etc. Then finally comes the idea of material 
force, that is, of spontaneous activity attributed to each 
thing of itself. The word " make " as employed by the 
child on every occasion is, in this respect, very significant. 
Nature itself thus becomes the depositary of the artificial- 
ism of the later stages. Due allowances made, it is the 
artificiahsm which M. Brunschwig has so admirably 
treated in Aristotle's physics. 

Naturally, the ideas of finality, of material force and 
many others, current in this period, date from much 
earher, and it is from the very beginning of its develop- 
ment that the chUd endows things with human activity. 
That is precisely what animism consists of, and in one 
sense, one may, even in the earliest periods, call animism 
an immanent artificiahsm. But the period now under 
discussion which begins at about the ages of 9-10 is marked 
by the junction of two very distinct currents, one of 
which comes from the animism and the other from the 
artificialism of the preceding periods. Thus certain char- 
acteristics attributed henceforth to material bodies are of 
animistic origin, such as the consciousness and the life, 
with which about one-third of the children of this fourth 
period still endow the planets. Other characteristics are 



376 CHILD'S CONCEPTION OF THE WORLD 

of artificialist origin as, for example, the idea of the 
generation of material bodies by means of each other, 
which seems to come from the idea of manufacture (all 
artificial production during the second stage being 
considered as concerned with hving matter). Finally, 
most characteristics have an origin both animistic and 
artificialist, such as the ideas of material force, integral 
finalism, etc. 

It is obvious that what has just been said of the third 
and fourth periods concerns only the child's physics. In 
the measure that he has received religious instruction, he 
differentiates between physical and theological factors 
during these periods, and the human or transcendent 
artiftcialism of the first two periods comes to be trans- 
ferred to God himself. In this case, the creation of the 
world will continue to be interpreted in terms of an 
integral artificialism whilst the detail of the phenomena 
will be interpreted in terms of natural processes and of 
an artificialism increasingly immanent. 

§ 4. The Origins of Artificialism. — It would be 
fantastic to try to assign a sole originating cause to child 
artificiahsm. A phenomenon so complex can only be 
the product of many factors. We shall distinguish here, 
as we have done in the cases of animism and magic, two 
sorts of causes, those of an individual nature, that is 
those bound up with the consciousness which the child 
derives from his own activity, and those of a social nature, 
that is those bound up with the relations felt by the 
child to exist between him and his environment and 
particularly between him and his parents. But whereas 
individual causes appeared to preponderate in the cases 
of animism and magic, in the case of artificialism it is the 
social causes which carry most weight. 

Social causes are two in number, namely, the bond of 
material dependence which the child recognises as existing 
between himself and his parents and the spontaneous 
veneration in which he holds them. 

Under the first head we can be brief. From the outset 



CHILD ARTIFICIALISM 377 

of liis conscious life, the child is immediately dependent 
on his parents' activity for food, com^^ort, shelter and 
clothing which is all organised from above for him in 
accordance with his requirements. The most natural idea 
for him, the idea he cannot escape from without doing 
violence to his habits is that all nature centres round him 
and has been organised by his parents or by human beings 
in general. " Diffuse artificialism " can be considered 
then as the immediate product of the feeUng of material 
dependence which the child bears towards his parents. 
As to mythological artificialism it may be presumed, as 
we have already shown, that it is the problem of birth 
which stimulates its appearance. But the problem of 
birth is once more the problem of the parental function. 
The child feels himself to belong to his parents, he knows 
that they determined his arrival. Why and how ? The 
trend of this interest plays a considerable part in the 
artificialist solutions which the child proffers. 

The second point, namely, the deification of parents 
will also not detain us long. M. Bovet in a series of 
remarkable studies^ has deduced from child psychology 
a whole theory of the origin of religion which is of supreme 
interest in this connection. 

Psychoanalysts have shown that between the different 
manifestations of love — filial, parental, and sexual love, 
etc., there is not heterogeneity but identity of origin. 
Floumoy, inspired by this view, has tried to prove, parti- 
cularly in his Mystique moderner that religious emotion 
is nothing other than sublimated sexual emotion. M- 
Bovet, trying to widen the field of survey by studying 
not only mysticism but religion in all its extension has 
been led to reverse the terms of the problems. If in fact 
there is a relationship between sexual love, mystic love, 

^ P. Bovet, " Le sentiment religieux," Rev. de Thiol, et de Phtl. 
(Lausanne), igig, pp. 157-175. "Le sentiment filial ct la religion," /ftjd., 
1920, pp. 141-153. And principally Le sentiment rehgieux et la psychologie 
de l enfant, Neuchatel and Pans (Delachaux et NiestleJ, 1923, p. 173. 

* Th. Flournoy, "Una mystique moderne," Arch, de Psych., 1915 
(Vol. XV). 



378 CHILD'S CONCEPTION OF THE WORLD 

and the love of a child for its mother, must one regard, 
as Freud does, filial love as sexual and incestuous, or are 
the diverse forms of love to be regarded as differentiations 
of one primitive fihal love ? This is not only a question 
of terms. In religious psychology, the line of demarca- 
tion is very clear. Sublimated sexual love, it is true, 
does not cover the whole of religious emotion. But on 
the other hand, the transference and the sublimation of 
the primitive filial sentiment furnishes the key to the 
problem. The essence of religious emotion is, in fact, a 
mingling sui generis of love and of fear which one can 
call respect. Now this respect is not to be explained 
except by the relations of the child with its parents. It 
is the fiUal sentiment itself. 

Here are the facts. The child in extreme youth is 
driven to endow its parents with all of those attributes 
which theological doctrines assign to their divinities — 
sanctity, supreme power, omniscience, eternity, and even 
ubiquity. We must scrutinise each of these points for 
they lead straight to the very core of artificiaUsm. 

It is a common observation that babies attribute to 
their parents complete virtue. As M. Bovet has remarked, 
the proof of this lies in the gravity of the crisis provoked 
by the discovery of a fault and particularly of an injustice 
in the parents. The case may be recalled, which we 
quoted from amongst some recollections of childhood, of 
the child who, accused and punished in error, ended by 
convincing himself that he was guilty of the fault with 
which he was charged. 

The supreme power of the parent is still more essential 
to the point of view with which we are deahng. There 
are many instances on record of children attributing 
extraordinary powers to their parents. A little girl asked 
her aunt to make it rain.^ M. Bovet quotes Hebbel's 
recollections of childhood. The child, who thought its 
parents all-powerful, was staggered to find them one day 
lamenting over the sight of their fruit-trees ravaged by 

1 Spielrein, Arch, de Psvch., Vol. XVIIT, p. 307. 



CHILD ARTIFICIALISM 379 

a storm. There was then a limit to his father's power ! 
Spontaneous conduct such as this can be instanced in- 
definitely and our own data confirm in the clearest manner 
M. Bovet's thesis. Not only is it evident that the omni- 
potence, with which the youngest of the children we have 
examined endow mankind in general, must be derived 
from the unlimited powers which they attribute to their 
parents, but furthermore we have often come across 
precise evidence in the shape of facts bearing directly on 
the point. We have frequently asked children if their 
fathers could have made the sun, the Saleve, the lake, the 
earth, or the sky. They do not hesitate to agree. Here 
is a myth which is very significant, in which the omni- 
potence of the parents is, it is true, transferred to a 
symbolic plane but nevertheless remains quite clearly 
defined : — 

Marsal (20) is a defective who, it will be remembered, 
told us not without some romancing, that the sun had 
been thrown up into the air, hke a balloon, by his ancestors. 
We asked him what these ancestors were : " / think there 
must have been some one to make them. — And what about 
God ? — Well, to tell the truth I don't much believe in God. 
To my mind there must have been something that started the 
human reign. — How did it come about ? — God couldn't 
have taken little bits and made a man. The two sexes must 
have come together. There was an old man, not tremendously 
old, but old all the same, and he had a woman with him who 
was about the same age." Marsal had begun to adopt a 
serious air. We asked him to describe this woman. He 
said : " Her face is rather like my mother's. I like my 
mother more than anything in the whole world." As to the 
old man he naturally is like his father, without a beard, 
with the same features and the same eyes. He is simply 
a little younger. These are the ancestors who, according 
to Marsal, built the earth and made the sun come forth 
from volcanoes. 

Such a myth evidently symbolises what little children 
are limited to feeling within them, namely, that the world 
was made by their parents. 

As to the omniscience that the child attributes to his 



38o CHILD'S CONCEPTION OF THE WORLD 

parents, it is revealed clearly enough by the crisis pro- 
voked when he finds his parents out in ignorance or error. 
Here as usual the child's convictions are implicit, not 
formulated and even informulable, and it is only when the 
conviction decays that it is seen to have existed. A very 
clear fact related by M. Bo vet is the recollection of Edmund 
Gosse of first hearing his father say something which was 
not quite true. The passage which is of the greatest 
interest should be read in its full context.^ Here we 
shall only quote the following : " Here was the appal- 
ling discovery, never suspected before, that my Father 
was not as God, and did not know everything. The 
shock was not caused by any suspicion that he was not 
teUing the truth but by the awful proof that he was 
not as I had suppoired omniscient." 

We have already remarked the following case : Del, at 
6^ (see Language and Thought, Chapter V) asks questions 
in a way which impHes that there is an answer to every- 
thing and that the adult knows the answer. " Why do 
you ever make mistakes?" he once asked his teacher? 
At 7 ; 2, Dell asks fewer questions about fortuitous occur- 
rences as if he had given up trying to justify everything. 
We put to him then his own questions of the year before 
and he found them absurd and insoluble. " // Papa does 
not know everything how can I," he once said. In the 
interval Del had passed through a crisis of scepticism in 
regard to adult knowledge, a crisis such as M. Bovet has 
described and which is of great importance in the child's 
thought. In fact, at the time when Del believed in adult 
omniscience, he considered the world as a harmoniously 
regulated whole from where chance was excluded, whereas 
during the period of scepticism of which we are now 
speaking he renounces the idea that everything is to be 
justified and is ready to admit chance and natural causes. 

Parents are also held by younger children to be in- 
dependent of time. Children have asserted to us that 
when t^f^ir daddies came into the world, the lake was not 

^ K<imund Gosse, Father and Son. Chapter II. 



CHILD ARTIFICIALISM 381 

yet hollowed out and the Sal^ve was not yet built. 
Marsal's myth has just shown how children tend to con- 
ceive their parents as being anterior to the origin of things. 

Finally, in connection with ubiquity every one can recall 
the feeling of being followed and watched which guilty 
children experience. The happy child also believes him- 
self constantly to be known, understood and accompanied. 
Adult omniscience expands into omnipresence. 

Such then seems to be the starting-point of the filial 
emotion — that parents are gods. M. Bovet has very 
justly remarked in this connection how the notion of 
God, when imfK)sed in the early stages of education, is 
useless and embarrassing. Insistence on divine per- 
fection means setting up in God a rival to the parents, 
and M. Bovet has quoted some very curious facts to 
illustrate this point. If, on the other hand, such insistence 
is not made and the child is left to his spontaneous con- 
ceptions he jinds nothing very sacred about God. He is 
just a man hke anyone else, who lives in the clouds or 
in the sky, -but who, with this exception, is no different 
from the rest. "A person who works for. his master." 
" A man who earns wages," these are of the type of 
definition that working-class children of about 7-8 give 
of God. The child's remark has been quoted who, watch- 
ing some navvies at work, hailed them as " Gods " (" des 
Bons Dieux "). A great number of children have also 
told us that there were many Gods, the word for them 
being generic, just as are the words " sun " and " moon " 
for children who believe in the existence of numberless 
suns. In short every time that children have introduced 
God into their answers, it has been romancing (as if God 
were a fairy or a Father Christmas), or otherwise, has 
been to assign to God an activity which is, in truth, 
human. Certain children, for example, have hesitated in 
attributing the lake to God or to men, saying : "I don't 
know if it was God or some men who did it." 

Then comes the crisis. There is necessarily a Hmit to 
this deification of the parents. M. Bovet says : " For a 



382 CHILD'S CONCEPTION OF THE WORLD 

long while the existence of this rationalistic and philo- 
sophical period round about the sixth year has been 
affirmed ; it is generally put forward as an awakening of 
intellectual curiosity ; v/e believe it should be regarded 
rather as a crisis, intellectual and moral at the same time, 
similar in many ways to that of adolescence." ^ The con- 
sequences of such a phenomenon are evident. The feelings 
experienced by the child up till now towards his parents 
must be directed elsewhere, and it is at this period that 
they are transferred to the God with which his education 
has provided him. It has been said that the child 
" divinities " his parents. M. Bovet retorts with reason 
that it can better be said, that he " patemalises " God, 
at the moment when he ceases to regard his parents as 
perfect. From the point of view of which we are treating, 
the powers ceded to parents come to be progressively 
attributed to more men or to older men and ultimately 
to " early man." Or finally, in certain cases, the crisis 
proceeds to such lengths that it is artificiaUsm en bloc 
which is called in question. However, in general, a more 
or less attenuated artificialism survives for some years 
after the crisis at the age of 6 to 7. 

To conclude, it is clear enough how far the fiHal senti- 
ment may be the source of artificialism. The parents 
being gods, it is obvious that from the child's point of 
view, the world is due to their activity or to that of men 
in general. It will be clear also why we have not dis- 
tinguished in detail between human and divine or theo- 
logical artificiaUsm, They are certainly not to be dis- 
tinguished at any rate until about 7 or 8 years. Either 
God is a person or men are gods, or else God is the chief 
of men, but it is by the transference of the filial sentiment. 
Above all it is clear how original child artificiaUsm is, 
both in its origin and in its manifestations. It would 
be in consequence an error to attribute it to reUgious 
education imposed from above and badly assimilated 
by the child. 

* Bovet, he. cit., 1919, pp. 170-1. 



CHILD ARTIFICIALISM 383 

If we pass now to the individual factors which have 
produced or encouraged artificiahsm, we find facts which 
are much more prosaic. But as psychoanalytic studies 
have shown, children's thoughts are moulded by narcissist 
interests — even by " auto-erotic " interests, as Freud 
terms those which attach themselves to all organic func- 
tions — as much as by parental complexes. The individual 
factors of artificiahsm will then be two in number, namely, 
the feeling of the child that he is a cause, on the one hand, 
thanks to his organism, on the other, thanks to his manual 
activity in general. 

The first point is more important than it may seem, 
but being bound up with all sorts of taboos and repressions 
we only found faint traces of it in our interrogations. It 
has been shown how interested the younger children are 
in their digestive processes and in micturition, and we 
have seen clear traces of thoughts about micturition in 
the beUefs relating to the origin of rivers. Having studied 
the notions of children on the air and the wind (see 
CausaliU Physique, Chapter I), it would be hard to doubt 
that respiration (in the shape of the production of wind) 
and even wind in the intestines plays a part in forming the 
child's conception of the world. 

The second point is all important. The child's thought 
is in close connection with his muscular activity. Stanley 
Hall ^ has shown very clearly the extent to which children's 
curiosity is related to manual experiments and to the 
destruction of objects. The observations of Miles Aude- 
mars and Lafendel at the Maison des Petits at the Institute 
of Jean-Jacques Rousseau have shown how far manual 
work is essential to the child's mental development. 
These excellent teachers have come to distinguish three 
stages in the child's mental development in connection 
with the relations between thought and manual activity. 
During the first stage (3-4) the child's thought is 
" stemmed by action." This is the stage of manipulation. 
During the second (5-7) " there is henceforth an aUiance 

1 Pedag. Sem., Vol. X, 1903. 



384 CHILD'S CONCEPTION OF THE WORLD 

between motor and mental activity." " action provokes 
thoughts." During the third stage (after 7 or 8) " work 
becomes orderly, movement is controlled by thought, 
because thought precedes action." ^ The full significance 
of these statements comes out when it is remembered to 
what an extent at the Maison des Petits, the groundwork 
of arithmetic and of the whole intellectual life of the child 
is spontaneously derived from manipulation and from the 
spontaneous adaptation to the exigencies of manual 
games. That is to say that thought, directly it becomes 
conscious of itself, is connected with making things. 
Mach, Rignano and Goblot have defined reasoning as a 
" mental experience," or a construction in thought. With 
regard to the child it is almost a " manufacture of thought" 
of which we should speak. 

Finally, to be complete we must mention a factor 
accessory to artificiahsm, namely, language. It is evident 
that the verbs " to make," " to form," etc., that we 
apply to nature are pregnant with artificialism. But it 
is also evident that language is not enough to explain 
child artificiahsm, here, as usual, there is simply con- 
vergence between the regressive tendencies of language 
and child mentality. Moreover, as always, the child is 
original ; it is not so much the word " to do " (faire) as 
the words " to get done " (faire faire) that he most often 
uses (" le vent fait faire avancer les nuages," " le soleil fait 
faire pousser les fleurs," etc.). This expression " faire 
faire " has a significance that is both animistic and arti- 
ficialist, it imphes an external motor force and an internal 
principle of reaUsation. 

§ 5. The Origins of Identification and the Causes 
OF THE Decline of Artificialism and Animism. — It 
cannot be actually as the result of experience that the 
child comes to abandon his animism and his artificiahsm. 
No direct experience can prove to a mind inclined towards 
animism that the sun and the clouds are neither alive 

1 M. Audcrnars and L. Lafendel, La Maison des Petits de I'Institut 
J. -J. Rousseau. Neuchatel and Paris (Delachaux and NiesUe), 1923. 



CHILD ARTIFICIALISM 385 

nor conscious. Neither can adult teaching undeceive the 
child, since the child does not speak of his animism enough 
to make the adult expressly seek to supplant it, and also, 
the child animist incorporates into his own mentahty 
even the best lessons, whatever their subject. As to 
artificialism, it rests on tendencies of mind that no observa- 
tion of things will echpse until precisely such time as the 
child is ready to abandon all its preconceptions. 

The direct pressure of reality on the child's mind 
cannot, therefore, explain the decline of animism and 
artificialism, so much as a change in the general trend 
of its mind. To what must this change be ascribed ? 
The answer varies according as attention is directed to 
the social or to the individual factors of animism and 
artificiaUsm. 

As regards the social factors, the crisis M. Bovet de- 
scribes in which the child reaUses first that his parents, 
and then that men in general are not all-powerful and do 
not rule the world is enough to account for the decline of 
transcendent artificialism. This crisis has evidently a 
reaction on animism, in leading the child to regard things 
as much less preoccupied with our doings than they at 
first seem. 

As regards the individual factors, that is to say the 
factors in this continual assimilation of the world to the 
self, which causes the child to treat all things as personal, 
as hke ourselves and as gyrating around us, it seems that 
the progressive decrease in the child's egocentricity is 
enough to explain how he gradually comes to assume an 
objective standpoint in regard to things and consequently 
to abandon the ideas of participation on which animism 
and artificialism are nourished. Now, the decrease in 
egocentricity which becomes very marked after the ages 
of 7 or 8 is due as has been shown elsewhere {Language 
and Thought, Chapters I-III) to the manner in which child 
thought becomes progressively socialised. 

Liberation from the bond that ties him exclusively to 
his parents and the freeing of his own point of view or 



386 CHILD'S CONCEPTION OF THE WORLD 

self seem thus to be the two principal factors that explain 
the progressive decline of animism and of artificialism. 
How next is the progressive evolution of artificialist 
causality into the higher forms of causality to be explained ? 

These higher forms, which the child attains spon- 
taneously, are, as has been shown, causality by identi- 
fication of substance, the form modelled on the notions 
of condensation and rarefaction, and a certain primitive 
atomism or synthesis of elements. 

The attempt to see identity is very clear in the stages 
above the ages of 7 or 8. The sun and the moon are 
identified with the clouds or the air. From the air arise 
steam and water on the one hand, and fire on the other. 
Lightning is occasioned by the transformation of the clouds 
of smoke into fire. Earth and rock are conceived as two 
aspects of the same substance, etc. But these trans- 
formations imply condensations and rarefactions. The 
sun is made of air or of wind that has been " squeezed," 
rock is compressed earth and earth is rock broken up 
into particles and dust. Finally, these condensations 
and rarefactions suppose the existence of particles or 
elements and this is clearly shown by children of the age 
of II or 12. 

It would certainly seem, therefore, that, as M. E. 
Meyerson would have it, the first positive form of causality 
is identification. Only, identification involves a past. It 
cannot arise aU at once and the identifications made by 
intelligence during the different periods of its development 
have neither the same value nor form. What was identi- 
fied by the pre-Socratics we to-day distinguish and what 
we identify appeared heterogeneous to the pre-Socratics. 
What then is the genesis of identification in the child ? 
As far as we have been able to observe the genetic pro- 
gression appears to be as follows. 

The child starts by establishing dynamic participations 
between things — the clouds and the rain are attracted to 
one another ; cold, frost and snow are attracted to one 
another; the wind and the clouds act on one another; 



CHILD ARTIFICIALISM 387 

the clouds act on the sun, driving it or chasing it or 
attracting it, etc. At the stage when all things are man- 
made and aUve, these participations merely imply series 
of actions at a distance half psychical, half physical, with- 
out any real community of being. Certain of these 
dynamic participations, however, are already continued 
into participations of substance, that is to say that bodies 
separated in space are sometimes conceived by the child 
as directly resulting one from the other (see Chapter IV, 
§ 2, the examples of the air and the shadow). 

According as man ceases to be a god in the child's 
eyes and as nature appears less to gravitate around us 
and our interests, the child seeks to explain things by 
means of themselves. Participations between things and 
ourselves have so far given rise to myths concerning the 
manufacture of things by man. Henceforth, and accord- 
ing as things become detached from man, participations 
between the things themselves give rise to myths of 
generation. The sun is the offspring of the clouds, the 
lightning and the stars are produced by the sun, the 
wind has collected together to form a cloud, etc. We 
say generation and not yet strictly identification, since 
things are still regarded as alive and conscious and 
because the child does not at first state the nature of the 
transformation. These myths are entirely comparable 
to the myth of Vo {§ 2) according to which man has been 
produced by a worm that has come out of a bubble from 
the bottom of the water. 

From generation to identification strictly speaking, 
there is only the difference which separates d5mamistic 
from mechanistic thought ; according as things are 
deprived of life and spontaneous force, the transformation 
of the clouds into tlie sun and moon, or of the wind into 
cloud, becomes mechanistic and the child then turns to 
the form modelled on notions of condensation and of 
atomistic composition. But to explain how children arrive 
at the necessity of mechanical explanation we must know 
how they explain natural movements. This involves a 



388 CHILD'S CONCEPTION OF THE WORLD 

detai'ed study of child physics and the analysis of the 
explanations children give not only concerning the origin 
of things but concerning the detail of phenomena and the 
way in which transformations and movements take place. 
This will be attempted in the sequel to this work La 
Causaliti physique chez V enfant. 



APPENDIX 

Note on the relations between belief in efficacy and 
magic, in connection with §§ 2 and 3 of Chapter IV 

In order to dispel all ambiguity we think it useful to say 
in a few words why we have taken the Hberty of using 
in child psychology the term " magic," which is custom- 
arily restricted to a purely sociological use. 

In the course of discussions on this subject with I. 
Meyerson (see p. 157), a difference has arisen between us. 
I. Meyerson, amongst others, has pointed out that the 
idea of magic implies actions and beUefs having a collective 
aspect. This involves in the first case a question of fact, 
which is, that in all the examples described the magic fits 
into a social setting. But this is not a chance, a mere 
fact of circumstance. Reflection would seem to suggest 
that the content and the form of magical phenomena are 
bound up closely enough with social actions and with 
communication between individuals ; its symbolical and 
formal character, its grammar and its S3mtax imply an 
adaptation, and more often a long adaptation, to the sum 
total of the rites and habits of the group — the language 
of magic, that is, has a history. The actual form of a 
spell can show traces of its chaiacter. The nature of a 
conviction must be influenced by the belief that it affects 
the Hfe of the entire group. These " reverberations " 
give it not only increased strength but the character of 
an action with a definite and productive end. A pro- 
tective conviction which is effective is a different thing 
from a belief In an evil spell which fails. 

Thus, on the one hand, the case of spells or charms 



390 APPENDIX 

does not exhaust the whole of magic, even from the point 
of view of pure psychology ; on the other hand, it is 
doubtful whether the nature, and above all the degree, 
of the belief in spells is the same in the collective cases 
of adults as in the individual cases of children. 

In the cases of children themselves, it is perhaps possible 
to make certain distinctions : — 

(i) In some cases appeal is made to an external power, 
much more than to a genuine action exerted on 
the world. In these cases it may be doubted if 
the question of a spell really arises or if it is a 
question of oscillations in psychological tension 
and of attempts to raise this tension by means 
of processes such as those so well treated by 
P. Janet. 

(2) In other cases there has been personal " experi- 

ence " accompanied with success and application 
to a second event appearing in similar conditions. 
This may be regarded as a form of causal sequence 
or motive, more nearly approaching a spell than 
the former, but distinguished, however, by two 
characteristics. On the one hand, there is cer- 
tainly present sequence and succession — I. Meyer- 
son, holding that cases of supposed causality and, 
above all, of magic spells suppose some kind of 
simultaneity between the event and the gesture 
or rite necessary to bring it about ; as he has 
pointed out elsewhere, the " cause " is in this 
case an aspect or part of the event. On the other 
hand, the belief the child places in this sort of 
action is weak and not continuous, in opposition 
to the strength and continuity of the belief in 
magical spells. 

(3) Finally, there are the cases where at the basis of 

the child's belief, lies a " social " belief (that is, a 
general belief or one that the child believes to be 
general or widespread). For the child, to be 



APPENDIX 391 

general means equally to be necessary ; to have 
a quality of inevitability. According to I. Meyerson, 
only the combination of a child's wish with a behef 
of this type can give rise to cases which may 
legitimately be compared to cases of magic spells. 
And here a distinction must be made between the 
beliefs the child has acquired from the adult 
social world and those of strictly childish origin. 

This last case would be according to I. Meyerson the 
most favourable. He would suppose a society of children 
with its own beliefs, rites or rite-games, rites of initiation 
and of membership, rites of progression and of creation, 
rites of exclusion and penalties, language and symbolism 
— all corresponding to the desires and fears of children 
as distinct from those of adults. The Boy Scouts with 
their own special games, songs and sjrmboHsm, prove, in 
his opinion, that it is possible in societies where there is 
a firmer solidarity than in ours, to find groups of children 
organised in this way. Such a study would certainly be 
profitable. It would alone make it possible to see both 
the original nature of magical causahty to the child and 
the nature of the phenomenon of magic apart from its 
efficacy. Like every research of social psychology it would 
naturally have to embrace the study of the phenomenon 
in its period of full sway, in full social activity ; the study 
of the acquisition of its behefs by the individual child ; 
the study of their variations under the action of social 
factors and individual experience, and the study of the 
loss of its behefs. 

The general significance of all these remarks is that to 
create an atmosphere of magic there must have been a 
long period of conformity to it. 

For our part we fully realise that in all adult society, 
magic is an eminently social reality and that behef in 
magical efficacy, therefore, possesses an intensity and a 
continuity that make it incomparable with the weak and 



392 APPENDIX 

extremely discontinuous beliefs of children. We are also 
convinced, like I. Meyerson, that in the functioning of 
any social institution, it is hopeless to try to separate the 
social from the individual factor ; the social process and 
its reverberations in individual minds are one and the 
same thing, or, more exactly they form two aspects of 
the same reahty. We have thus chosen our vocabulary 
without any intention of identifying individual childish 
beliefs with primitive social beliefs or of opposing a social 
psychology to sociological research after the manner of 
G. Tarde. 

We have simply made the following working hypothesis. 
It has seemed to us that amongst the very numerous and 
complex characteristics of magic described by sociologists, 
the belief in efficacy at a distance was the hardest to 
explain psychologically by studying it in relation to social 
life instead of isolated by itself. We have, therefore, 
assumed, solely as a working hypothesis, that there was 
continuity between the purely individual idea of efficacy 
and the idea impHed in the social beliefs of a magical 
type. This does not in the least suggest that the social 
beliefs have not — precisely because they are social — an 
infinitely greater power of coercion and crystallisation. 
It means simply that they are made possible by means 
of an individual psychological substructure. 

From this psychological point of view we thus define 
" magical " phenomenon by the idea of efficacy at a 
distance and we distinguish two types : — 

(i) Individual child magic, in which the belief is weak 
and probably discontinuous ; and 

(2) Magic strictly speaking, or collective magic, char- 
acterised by various qualities sui generis, amongst 
them being a much more intense and systematic 
belief. 

It is precisely because of this attempt to seek continuity 
in the development of the idea of efficacy that the behefs 
quoted in § 2 of Chapter IV were all strictly individual 



APPENDIX 393 

child beliefs, that is to say, that they had escaped adult 
influence and broadly speaking were not due to com- 
munication between child and child. 

Evidently it would be desirable to supplement our study 
of the notion of efficacy at a distance by a complete 
research into the constitution of the child's social magical 
beliefs. It is here, according to I. Meyerson, that the 
psychological analysis of what is strictly speaking magic 
should begin. In our opinion, on the contrary, such a 
research should be made in conjunction with a study of 
individual beliefs in efficacy. 

In the absence of such work on the children of savages 
or on societies of civilised children, we may suppose, 
according to the material collected in connection with 
§ 2, Chapter IV, that with children this social magic 
consists above all in a consolidation of the behef in 
efficacy, a consolidation that naturally becomes aU the 
firmer according as the child succeeds in absorbing adult 
social behefs or practices. 

The following is an example : The young man who 
told us his personal procedure when playing marbles 
(p. 142) recalls the following collective fact. He and his 
friends had the habit, although Protestants, of making 
the sign of the cross on the marbles they were about to 
play with to make them go well. In so far as the memory 
is exact, this custom arose simply from an act of imitation, 
and ended by the progressive formation of a rite accord- 
ing to which each player adapted himself to tlie idea that 
it must be efficacious. The same young man has the 
impression that such practices were much richer and 
more complicated ; but he can only recall this detail. 

A particular case such as this obviously proves nothing. 
We shall, therefore, leave the question open, whilst stating 
that the designation of " magic " to denote the individual 
behefs described, is simply intended to permit the idea 
of a continuity between the notion of efficacy implied in 
these beliefs and the notions imphed by the strictly social 
magical rites. Apart from this question of terminology 



394 APPENDIX 

and the working hypothesis involved, we are entirely in 
agreement with Meyerson's criticism. In particular we 
agree firmly with him as to the necessity of distinguishing 
what are, strictly speaking, beliefs in efficacy (whether 
individual, like those characterising the cases quoted in 
§ 2 of Chapter IV, or social), from the simple means of 
protection intended to relieve the psychological tension, 
and from the forms of causality dependent purely on 
phenomena that lie at the basis of sequence or succession. 



INDEX OF NAMES 



Aristotle, 223, 253, 375 
Audemars, 67, 364, 383, 384 

Baldwin. 34, 35, 36. 128, 131, 169 

Ballard, 239 

Bally, 84, 248 

Bergson, 235 

Binet, 10, 358 

Bohn, 243, 333, 369 

Bonald, de, 71 

Bovet, 150, 208, 247, 268, 354, 

381. 382 
Brunschvicg, 253, 254 
Burnet, 191 

Compayr6, 56 
Cramaussel, 362, 364 

Delacroix, 86, 130, 148, 161, 164, 
166, 189 

Egger, 131 
Empedocles, 48, 347 

Feigin, 92 

Ferenczi, 247 

Flournoy, 138, 377 

Frazer, 151, 158 

Freud, 142, 151, 165, 234, 246 

Goblot, 384 

Gosse, 124, 135, 380 

Hebbel, 150, 378 

James, 131, 148, 208, 257, 272, 

286, 300, 327. 353, 366 
Janet, 128, 162, 390 
Jerusalem, 249 

Klein, 150, 333, 338, 365, 367 
Klingebiel, 285 



Lafendel, 67, 383, 384 
Leuba, 148 

L^vy-Bruhl, 88, 132, 169, 371 
Luquet, 56, 70 

Mach. 34, 35. 178, 384 

Maine de Biran, 235 

Malan, 50 

Meyerson, E., 368 

Meyerson, I., 150, 157, 319, 389. 

391, 394 
Michelet, 242 
Miiller (Max), 250 

Nagy. 17 
Naville, F., 67 

Oberholzer, 150 

Pratt, 208 
Pre-Socratics, 304, 310 

Rasmussen, 210, 362, 364, 366, 

367 
Raymond, 49 
Reverdin, 150 
Ribot, 234, 244 
Rignano, 384 

Simon, 10, 358 

Sintenis, 208 

Spielrein, 150, 265, 378 

Stanley Hall, 48. 209, 256, 359, 

361 
Stern, 30, 39, 43, 249 
Sully, 39, 56, 92, 104, 148, 209, 

213. 255, 362 

Tarde, 392 

Wallon, 130 
Wulf, 247 



395 



GENERAL INDEX 



Adualisms, 34, 35, 119 

animism, among primitives, 170, 
178, 250 ; distinction between 
diffuse and systematic, 236 ; 
distinguished from participa- 
tion and magic, 133, 221, 250 ; 
distinguished from realism, 237 ; 
social factors favouring per- 
sistence of, 243 

anxiety, 164 

artiftcialism, distinguished from 
romancing, 352 ; immanent, 
374 ; mythological, 372 ; tech- 
nical, 374 

Boy Scouts, 391 

children, drawings by, 56, 70, 
III ; finalistic attitude of, 231, 
232, 358 ; questions by, 4, 5, 
256, 366 

children's ideas of birth, 360 ; of 
clouds, 298 ; of dynamics, 221; 
of force, 227 ; of God, 268, 269, 
272, 280, 352-4, 381 ; of iron, 
glass, cloth, and paper, 337 ; of 
mountains, 347 ; of night, 291; 
of the origin of water, 326 ; of 
the omniscience of parents, 
379; of rain, 311 ; of rivers, 
lakes and sea, 326 ; of the sky, 
287 ; of snow, ice and cold, 
320 ; of stones and earth, 339 ; 
of thunder and Ughtning, 307 ; 
of wood and trees, 334 

confusion between dream and 
reality, 91, 92 ; between in- 
ternal and external, 60, 86, 87, 
120, 124, 129 ; between living 
and inert, 229, 236 ; between 
matter and thought, 86, 87, 124; 
between physical and moral 
necessity, 232, 248, 360 ; be- 



tween self and universe, 125, 
126, 250 ; between sign and 
thing, 60, 86, 87, 102, 120, 124 

consciousness of self, 124 flE. ; 
absence of, 127, 152, 255 

conviction, liberated, 11, 13, 14, 
182, 355 ; spontaneous, 11, 12, 
182, 355 ; suggested, 10, 15 

dementia praecox, 4 
dissociation of reality, 125, 127 
dreams, and reality, 91. 92 ; organ 
of, 90 ; origin of, 89, 96, 97 ; 
place of, 89, 96, 97 ; retribu- 
tive quality of, 100, loi ; sub- 
stance of, 99 

egocentricity, 6, 33, 125, 152, 167, 

221, 244 
ejection, 35 

forgetting, 128 

God, children's ideas of, 268, 269, 
272, 280, 352-4, 381 

identification, 386 

imitation, 31, 128 ; involuntary, 

in adults, 162 ff. 
indissociation, of consciousness, 

236 ; primary and secondary, 

237 ; tertiary, 244 
introjection, 236, 242, 244 
introspection, 125, 240 
intuition, 125 

language, 30, 31. 248, 249, 384 

magic, 132, 133 flf., 389 ff. 
mythomania, 16 
myths of generation, 387 
manual activity, 383 



39e 



GENERAL INDEX 



397 



names, origin of, 63 fiF. ; place of, 

71 S. ; value of, 80 ff. 
narcissism, 151 

objectivity, 34 
observation, 4 

paranoea, 7 

parents' omniscience, 379 
participation, 132, 133 fif. ; dy- 
namic, 386 
pedagogical considerations, 302, 

315. 385 

perseveration, 15, 90, 171, 205 

precausality, 359 

primitive, animism, 170, 178, 250; 
magic, 132 ; participation, 132; 
372 ; physics, 178, 319 

projection, 34, 35. 241 

psycho-analysts, 35, 377 

purposiveness attributed to ob- 
jects, 231. 357 

random answer, 10, 18 



realism, absolute, 126 ; immedi- 
ate, 126; mediate, 126; dis- 
tinguished from animism, 237 

reality, dissociation of, 125, 127 

relativism, 126 

religious teaching, 52, 269, 270, 

272, 353. 354 
retribution, 247 

romancing, 10, 16, 246, 300, 368 
" rotting," 16 

self, 33 

self-esteem, 128 
social environment, 153 
solipsism, 152 
subjectivism, 126 
symbolism, 134, 161, 368, 369, 
379. 391 

tests, 3 

transduction, 159, 167 

verbal suggestion, 15. 214 
vision, 47 ff. 



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Anton, John Peter, Aristotle's Theory of Contrariety 275pp. 1957. 

Black, Max, The Nature of Mathematics 242pp. 1933. 

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Speech 374pp. 5 plates. 1930. 
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The Child's Conception of Physical Causality 37Spp. 1930. 

The Moral Judgment of the Child 435pp. 1932. 

The Psychology of Intelligence 198pp. 1950. 

The Child's Conception of Number 266 pp. 1952. 

The Origin of Intelligence in the Child 448pp. 1953. 

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Piaget, Jean and Inhelder, Barbel, The Child's Conception of Space 

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