Perhaps no one of the powers of the human mind is more widely and uniformly distributed among mankind than the power to control and guide the muscles in the shaping of 1 crude materials into objects of utility and beauty. Phrenologists have classed constructiveness as a distinct faculty, and have given its supposed externa indication a location upon the skull. It is evident, however, that it is not the simple control of muscle by the will that phrenologists mean by the term constructiveness. As illustrations of the prominent development of this faculty their books contain principally heads of such men as have distinguished themselves by great feats of mechanical skill and genius in invention. ! Now we maintain that if what is meant by constructive-1 ness in phrenology be anything more than mere power to j guide the muscles in making imitations of existing things I (and of course more is meant), it can no more be justly congidered a single faculty of the mind than the power to be- j come scientific in the most general sense of the latter term, j To be scientific a man must have not one but many "bumps" I well developed. To become a skilled constructor in anything I bat the imitative sense of the term, he must have not merely I the bump of constructiveness, deemed necessary by phrenolo-) gists, but the rest of his skull must contain some brains, as well. Take away his causality, his calculation, his ideality, his sense of color, form, and weight, and he will never make even a horseshoe, not to mention a steam engine. And though he may possess all the faculties which go to make a skilled constructor, he will never become such without knowledge. To construct, one must have mental as well as physical materials. To become skilled in the working of any material and fashioning it into that which better fits it for the use of man, it is necessary to know in some measure the properties of that material, and the means by which it may be so fashioned. Savages perform marvels of imitative skill, when the rude character of their implements are considered, but they invent little. Much invention and a savage state are incompatibles. When man begins to invent he has progressed, and it would not be hard to show that the progress of civilization has gone hand in hand with invention. We see then that mechanical skill may be reduced to three subjective elements; namely, good natural powers of mind and body, cultivation of those powers, and knowledge. Brutes have not the first of these elements, they can therefore not have the others, and hence it is absurd to speak of their being skillful in their works. The beaver's dam, the . honey-comb of the bee, and the tailor-bird's nest, are often spoken of as works of skill, but they are only so by comparison with the feeble mental and physical faculties of the beaver, the bird, and the bee. To form wax into much more complex forms than a honey-comb, would not be a surprising feat if done by a boy six years old. To build a dam as sub-substantial as it is done by the beaver, or to stitch leaves together like the tailor-bird, is far within the power of the lowest and most ignorant savages on the face of the earth. Savages do even more remarkable things than these, but they are not feats of constructive skill in a broad sense of the term ; a watch or a steam engine is, because all the requisites above enumerated are necessary to its construction. True, an ignorant man may imitate, but he could not devise, or improve it. An educated man might invent improvements, but lack the power to construct his improvement, but neither of these could be called skillful How absurd, then to consider constructive skill as a peculiar acuity of the mind, like the phrenologist, or mere deftness f the hand like the workman, who will none of books Ije- auso lie esteems most the judgment of practical men, and fely tMnks himself a p'rabfiM man, Of all absurd terms, this "practical" is most misunderstood. What does it mean 1 Clearly, it means pertaining to practice, and practice signifies the practice of something, the application of knowledge or theory. Hence, theory precedes practice. A theoretical man may not be practical, but a practical man must be theoretical in spite of himself, and just as he is deficient in theory, in just so much he must be deficient in practice. There is a lesson to be drawn from this, but it must form the subject of a future article.
This article was originally published with the title "The Constructive Faculty of the Mind" in Scientific American 21, 26, 408 (December 1869)