Very commonplace, even ugly, that furniture of our early home might look if it were put up to auction; an improved taste in upholstery scorns it; and is not the striving after something better and better in our surroundings the grand characteristic that distinguishes man from the brute, or, to satisfy a scrupulous accuracy of definition
, that distinguishes the British man from the foreign brute?
Do you happen to recall Herbert Spencer's definition of 'Life'?
That," he replied, "is all that any definition can do.
Remember," he warned, "my definition is fatal to metaphysics.
You have not yet picked out the flaw in my definition of philosophy.
But the objection is urged, 'that the honourable is the good,' and as every one equally desires the good, the point of the definition is contained in the words, 'the power of getting them.
Some lesser points of the dialogue may be noted, such as (1) the acute observation that Meno prefers the familiar definition, which is embellished with poetical language, to the better and truer one; or (2) the shrewd reflection, which may admit of an application to modern as well as to ancient teachers, that the Sophists having made large fortunes; this must surely be a criterion of their powers of teaching, for that no man could get a living by shoemaking who was not a good shoemaker; or (3) the remark conveyed, almost in a word, that the verbal sceptic is saved the labour of thought and enquiry (ouden dei to toiouto zeteseos).
Numerous instances could be given of characters derived from parts which must be considered of very trifling physiological importance, but which are universally admitted as highly serviceable in the definition of whole groups.
Nothing can be easier than to define a number of characters common to all birds; but in the case of crustaceans, such definition has hitherto been found impossible.
The principles of definition
, the law of contradiction, the fallacy of arguing in a circle, the distinction between the essence and accidents of a thing or notion, between means and ends, between causes and conditions; also the division of the mind into the rational, concupiscent, and irascible elements, or of pleasures and desires into necessary and unnecessary-- these and other great forms of thought are all of them to be found in the Republic, and were probably first invented by Plato.
Professor Lloyd Morgan gives the following definition of "instinctive behaviour":
This definition is framed for the purposes of biology, and is in some respects unsuited to the needs of psychology.