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Table of Contents

Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Chapter 5

Chapter 6



Further Reading


The Mysterious Matter of Mind

Chapter Three

Whence Came Mindedness?

      That we have something we call self-consciousness we cannot doubt even if we find it difficult to define precisely. J. R. Smythies (Department of Psychiatry, University of Edinburgh) wrote in 1969: "The consciousness of other people may be for me an abstraction, but my own consciousness is for me a reality." (12) That animals below man have consciousness seems clear enough. That they have self-consciousness is not so clear, in spite of the recent experiments in teaching the larger primates some form of sign language.
     Further experiments with a chimpanzee have revealed that it was able to identify itself in a mirror as indicated by self-directed behaviour. This is taken by some to demonstrate the possession of self-consciousness. But it may be necessary to distinguish between the self-consciousness of man by which he is aware of his own mental experience and the self-consciousness of an animal by which it is aware of its own body. The former seems clearly different from the latter.

12. Smythies, J. R., "Some Aspects of Consciousness," in Beyond Reductionism, edited by. Arthur Koestler and J. R. Smythies. London, Hutchinson Publishing Group, 1969, p.235.

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     The San Francisco Chronicle (21 July, 1968) reported the case of a chimpanzee in the Chessington Zoo in England which, having been for years a show-off of and fun-loving friend of the public, suddenly became shy and morose and took to hiding all day. The keeper decided that it was embarrassed because the hair on its head was thinning! It was provided with a toupee and this seemed to restore its "self-confidence" completely. But, again, one must ask, "Is this kind of body-awareness to be equated with the mind-awareness that permits a person not only to think, but to think about his own thinking?"
     Zoologist W. H. Thorpe (Cambridge), a recognized authority in this area, wrote in 1974: "Sir Karl Popper agrees, I think, with most students of animal communication that consciousness of selfhood, that is, a fully self-reflective consciousness, is absent in animals."
     David Bidney (of the Graduate School, Indiana University) opens his study of Theoretical Anthropology with the following:

     Man is a self-reflecting animal in that he alone has the ability to objectify himself, to stand apart from himself, as it were, and to consider the kind of being he is and what it is that he wants to do and to become. Other animals may be conscious of their affects and the objects they perceive; man alone is capable of reflection, of self-consciousness, of thinking of himself as an object.

     Whether animals do have self-consciousness or not, there is at least no doubt that both animals and man have consciousness. Thus, even if we limit ourselves to consciousness as opposed to self-consciousness, we still have to ask, How did it arise?
     Stanley Cobb suggests that consciousness is an attribute of mind, that part which has to do with awareness of self and environment. It varies in degree from moment to moment in man, and from fish to man in phylogeny. It may be that invertebrates and even plants have rudimentary forms of awareness of self.
(15) This sounds absurd. But if consciousness evolved from non-consciousness, we should find, as we trace its development back to the properties of matter alone, that it becomes less and less manifest until it no longer

13. Thorpe, W. H., Animal Nature and Human Nature, London, Methuen, 1974, p.310.
14.  Bidney, David, Theoretical Anthropology, New York, Columbia University Press, 1953, p.3.
15.  Cobb, Stanley, quoted by A. I. Hallowell, "Self, Society, and Culture in Phylogenetic Perspective," in Evolution After Darwin, edited by Sol Tax, Chicago, University of Chicago Press, 1960, vol.2, p.348.

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appears to exist: or, in reverse, we should trace the development of matter until evidence of mindedness first emerges and is manifest. Such a manifestation would be a "new thing" (a de novo) but not a creation (ex nihilo) because it arises out of what already exists and without discontinuity
     It is important to distinguish a "novelty," which arises suddenly but has its origin within an existing system, from a "new thing" which has been introduced from outside the system. The first is something de novo, the latter is something ex nihilo. Since science cannot deal successfully with the latter, the idea of outright creation is not allowable. Within the framework of scientific thinking an object which is claimed to be ex nihilo is suspect, and a determined effort will be made to show how it can be derived from what already exists, however complex and novel it may appear to be. If mind arises de novo as an entirely new thing in nature, perhaps as the result of a mutation of some kind, it is nevertheless assumed that it is to be derived directly from what is already in existence. The idea of something new which has appeared ex nihilo, that is to say, out of nothing, is most unwelcome in the present climate of scientific thought.
     We therefore have two basic views about the origin of mindedness, one of which is acceptable in spite of the mystery surrounding it, because it is derived out of existing matter. This is termed monism. The other view, which sees it as a direct creation, not derived out of existing matter but "out of nothing,'' is termed dualism. It is not scientifically respectable.
     We may, however, make a further division of the subject by recognizing that within the strictly monistic view mindedness might arise de novo in two different ways. It might arise by slow emergence until it suddenly becomes recognizable as mindedness. Or it might appear by a single leap as soon as the complexity of the brain had reached a certain critical stage. The first is a gradual formation of a mindedness that was "always there" but at such a low level as not to be recognizable. This is the position of panpsychism, which holds that all matter has mindedness. The second is a sudden appearance of mindedness which

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thereafter has an existence in its own right, but born of existing matter nevertheless.
     Dualism can also be conceived as occurring in two ways. Mindedness may be introduced ex nihilo in kind of embryonic form which does not reveal itself until a certain stage of organic development has been reached. Or it is introduced ex nihilo only when the advanced stage of development has been completed
     Thus, although we have four alternatives, they can be viewed as two: monism and dualism. We may thus say that mindedness arose because matter contained within itself the potential for it; or we may say that it was introduced by some means external to matter. Either view presents a dilemma which has been recognized for a long time. In one case we must say that even atoms have potential mindedness — a circumstance which is difficult to conceive. Or we have the direct creation of something out of nothing — which is equally difficult to conceive. We face a hard choice.
     In 1964 Cyril Ponnamperuma wrote a paper on "Chemical Evolution and the Origin of Life" in which he argued that "life is only a special and complicated property of matter, and that au fond [basically] there is no difference between a living organism and lifeless matter . . ."
(16) This implies that consciousness, which emerged out of living matter, must therefore also have been latent in non-living matter.
     This sparked some interesting correspondence in subsequent issues of the journal which had a bearing on the point. One of the correspondents, D. F. Lawden (University of Canterbury, New Zealand) remarked:

     If consciousness is a characteristic of this material aggregate (the brain), then by the principle of continuity it must also be a feature of every aggregate and ultimately of the fundamental particles. If this were not the case, at some level in the hierarchy * mentioned earlier, consciousness would arise discontinuously and it would be possible to draw a sharp dividing line separating conscious from non-conscious forms of matter. This would only be a disguised form of the line earlier assumed to

16. Ponnamperuma, Cyril, "Chemical Evolution and the Origin of Life," Nature, vol.201,1964, p.337.
17. Lawden, D. F., in Letters to the Editor under Biology, Nature, vol.202, 1964, p.412.
* i.e., "from inorganic, to organic, to biological chemistry."

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separate living from non-living forms. Undoubtedly, such mental characteristics as are possessed by the fundamental particles must be of poor quality and weak intensity, but unless some such features are postulated, I fail to understand how consciousness could ever arise in any system of matter, however complex.
     A system of particles, each of which possesses the known physical characteristics of electric charge, spin, etc., might very well be designed to behave like a human being, but not to experience consciousness as human beings undoubtedly do. . . .  We may perhaps hope to explain human behaviour, but our experience of this behaviour will remain unaccounted for. [emphasis mine]


     There, then, is the problem: our mindedness of our own behaviour. . . .  Where and how did it arise? Was "mind" introduced as something entirely new, or did it emerge simply because matter had reached the appropriate level of organization and had the appropriate capacities?
     Furthermore, when we speak of reaching the appropriate level of organization, what precisely does this involve? Do carbon atoms have mindedness, either real or latent? How much organization of organic chemicals is necessary to support mindedness? There is evidence that some of the very simplest organisms display its presence.
     H. S. Jennings long ago (1915) established the reality of "mindedness" in unicellular organisms. So clearly did he perceive this mindedness in amoebae, for example, that he had no hesitation in describing them as exhibiting attention, desire, frustration, established habits, and even intelligence. He wrote:

     Intelligence is commonly held to consist essentially in the modification of behaviour in accordance with experience. If an organism reacts in a certain way under certain conditions, and continues this reaction no matter how disastrous the effects, we say that its behaviour is unintelligent. If on the other hand, it modifies its behaviour in such a way as to make it more adequate, we consider the behaviour to this extent intelligent. It is the "correlation of experiences and actions" that constitute, as Hobbhouse (1901) has put it, "the precise work of intelligence." It appears clear that we find the beginnings of

18. Jennings, H. S., Behavior of the Lower Organisms, Columbia University Biological Series 10,New York, Columbia University Press, 1915, p.334.

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such adaptive changes of behaviour even in the Protozoa.

     So, as far as the objective evidence goes, Jennings would hold to a complete continuity between the [minded] behaviour of lower and higher organisms in this respect. (19) He concluded: (20)

      The writer is thoroughly convinced after long study of the behaviour of the amoeba, that if it were a large animal, so as to come within the everyday experience of human beings, its behaviour would at once call forth the attribution to it of states of pleasure and pain, of hunger, desire, and the like, on precisely the same basis as we attribute these things to a dog.

     J. Boyd Best found exactly the same wide range of minded responses in experiments with planarian worms, and concluded: (21)

     One finds that planarian behaviour resembles behaviour that in higher animals one calls boredom, interest, conflict, decision, frustration, rebellion, anxiety, learning and cognitive awareness. . . .  All one knows of the "mind" of another organism is inferred from its behaviour and its similarity to one's
own. . . .
     If the major psychological patterns are not unique to the vertebrate brain but can be produced even by such primitive animals as planarians, two possibilities suggest themselves. Such patterns may stem from some primordial properties of living matter, arising from some cellular or sub-cellular level of organization rather than nerve circuitry. . . .
     An alternative is that behavioural programs may have arisen independently in various species by a kind of convergent evolution.

     We are thus led to the conclusion that even the material substance of the single-celled animal already has a kind of embryonic mindedness. Does all matter therefore have some kind of mindedness?
     Arthur O. Lovejoy, in his Great Chain of Being,
(22) observed that one of the principal motives of panpsychism is the desire to avoid any kind of real discontinuity, the independent introduction of any new thing into matter as soon as it has reached a certain level of organization capable of supporting it. This can apply equally to life or to mindedness. He pointed out

19. Ibid., p.335.
20. Ibid., p.336.
21. Best, J. Boyd, "Protopsychology," Scientific American, February, 1963, p.62.
22. Lovejoy, Arthur O., The GreatChain of Being, New York, Harper and Row, 1960, p.276.

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that the French Philosopher, J. -B. -R. Robinet, in his magnum opus De La Nature (published from 1768), argued that we must either attribute appropriate form of consciousness even to stones, some level of intelligence even to the least atom of matter, or we ought to deny the reality of consciousness altogether. (23)
     Twenty-five years ago, Sir Julian Huxley, driven by this kind of logic, observed:

     It would have been more correct to speak of the possibilities inherent in the world-stuff * (than in matter per se); for the most startling potentiality revealed by evolution is mind, and mind cannot be said to be tamed, even as a potentiality, in matter. In most organisms — all plants, and all animal types produce the early stages of evolution — there is no direct evidence of mind at work, no need to postulate mental property. But higher animals are clearly the seat of mental process akin to ours, processes of perception, cognition, emotions, will, and even insight.
     We must conclude that the world-stuff possesses not only material properties, but rudimentary potentialities mental properties as well, and that these properties, when specialized out of their latent state into actuality, are of advantage to their possessors. . . .
     In most processes, the mind-aspects of the world-stuff are still as undetectable as were the electrical aspects material processes up to the late nineteenth century.

      So the problem of the origin of mind now descends to the stuff of the molecules themselves. That molecules could carry some form of embryonic mind seems absurd, but it is necessary to assume some such potential unless we are to agree that mindedness arises ex nihilo. Indeed, this situation appears even in the developing embryo. That molecules do have some kind of proto-mindedness has been seriously proposed in recent years by a number of writers, among whom may be listed A. N. Whitehead, C. Hartshorn, Bernard Rensch, and L. C. Birch. These writers — Whitehead and Rensch in particular — ascribe some rudimentary

23. Robinet, -J. -B. -R., De La Nature, Paris, 1776, vol.4, p.11—12.
24. Huxley, Sir Julian, "Genetics, Evolution and Human Destiny," in Genetics in the Twentieth Century, edited by L. C. Dunn, New York, Macmillan, 1951, pp.604—5.
* By "world-stuff" Huxley does not seem to mean matter in some even more elemental form, but energy of some kind — though no personal energy such as a divine immanence.

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form of life, sensation, and even volition to entities such as molecules, atoms, and subatomic particles. (25) One of Dobzhansky's senior colleagues, E. W. Sinnott, with whom he disagreed (though amicably), wrote a volume entitled Cell and Psyche: The Biology of Purpose. In this Sinnott remarked (26)

. . . that biological organization [concerned with organic development and physiological activity] and psychical activity [concerned with behaviour and leading to mind] are fundamentally the same thing. To talk about mind in a bean plant . . . is more defensible than trying to place an arbitrary point on the evolutionary scale where mind, in some mysterious manner, made its appearance. [emphasis his]

      Logically he seems to be quite correct. It is logical enough if mind emerges automatically from brain at some stage in the elaboration of matter. But Dobzhansky held that this is "a kind of vitalism made to stand on its head." (27) Perhaps it is. However, it seems that if mindedness did not emerge automatically from brain, we ought to be able to locate the precise moment of its emergence. What would location of the precise moment of this emergent mindedness signify if there were no discoverable antecedents? A creation?
     It would seem that Dobzhansky was prepared to allow that life would emerge automatically as soon as matter reached an appropriate stage of organization, and that consciousness would arise automatically, in its turn, when life reached a certain stage of complexity. What he was not prepared to agree to was that this matter was already in some sense alive, or that this life was already in some sense conscious of itself. There was no force acting upon dead matter to introduce life; it was only necessary that matter by chance reached the necessary stage of organization. And there was no necessity for some external force to act upon life to make it conscious of itself; it only required that life should have arisen to some higher level in order to become conscious automatically. What he objected to was the "always there" concept. Mindedness is seen as a new phenomenon, but it is not something introduced from outside, a creation ex nihilo, which had to wait until matter could provide a proper vehicle for it.

25. Dohzhansky, Theodosius, in "Book Reviews," Science, vol.175, 7 January, 1972, p.49.
26. Sinnott, E. W., Cell and Psyche: The Biology of Purpose, Chapel Hill, University of North Carolina Press, 1950, p.48—50.
27. Dobzhansky. in "Book Review's," p. 49.

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     In another paper Dobzhansky restated his assessment of this "always there" position: (28)

     Non-living matter, down to atoms and electrons, supposedly partakes of vital and volitional powers. In his imposing philosophical system, Whitehead has developed this view in some detail. . . .  I must say that in my opinion [such] views must be rejected both on scientific and philosophical grounds.

     Yet on logical grounds one seems indeed to be on the horns of a dilemma. Just as in the case of life itself, either consciousness arose because the raw materials have the potential to give rise to it, or it arose ex nihilo from outside the system.
     C. H. Waddington (of Edinburgh), reviewing Rensch's work, Evolution Above the Species Level (1959), notes that the author

. . . finds himself driven to attribute a capacity for sensation to the lowest organized creatures which can be shown to be capable of learning, that is, coelenterates and possibly even protozoa. He seems, in fact, to agree in general with the outlook of A. N. Whitehead (to whom he does not refer) that something which belongs within the same realm of being as consciousness has to be attributed to all existing things, including the inanimate. [emphasis mine]

     It was the same logical compulsion that drove Sir Charles Sherrington to write: (30)

     I would think that since mind appears in the developing soma, this amounts to showing that it is potential in the ovum (and sperm) from which the soma sprang. The appearance of recognizable mind in the soma would then be not a creation de novo but a development of mind from unrecognizable into recognizable. [emphasis mine]

     By this logic we come to the position of Whitehead and Rensch. One then has to ask, What was the form of this proto-mindedness that it could be potentially resident not only in the basic subatomic particles but even in these particles at a time when they were existing at the enormously high temperatures of their initial state as first brought into being? Somewhere one has to call a halt and say, Here is where proto-mind began to

28. Dobzhansky, Theodosius, "Man Consorting with Things Eternal," in Science Ponders Religion, edited by H. Shapley, New York. Appleton-Century-Crofts. 1960, pp.120—21.
29. Waddington, C. H., Book Reviews, Discovery,1960, p.453.
30. Sherrington, Sir Charles, Man on His Nature, Cambridge University Press, 1963, p.251.

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exist. But where then did it come from to make that beginning even in its proto form?

When the Mindedness of Individual Cells
Becomes a Shared Mindedness of the Multicellular Organism

     Once mindedness or consciousness has appeared on the scene in unicellular animals, does the rest follow automatically? When single-celled organisms unite to form multicellular aggregates, does the proto-mindedness of the amoeba become the corporate mindedness of the larger mass? Is Lovejoy's "great chain" still unbroken?
     Sherrington identified this problem in the developing embryo:

     The embryo, even when its cells are but two or three is a self-centered cooperating society — an organized family of cells with corporate individuality.
     The human individual is an organized family of cells, a family so organized as to have not merely corporate unity but a corporate personality. . . .  Yet each of its constituent cells is alive, centered in itself, managing itself. feeding and breathing for itself, separately born and destined separately to die.

Evidently this aggregate or society achieves a sense of unification and the billions of selves becomes a single Self. Edward McCrady wrote some time ago: (32)

     I, for instance, certainly have a stream of consciousness which I, as a whole, experience, and yet I include within myself millions of white blood cells which give impressive evidence of experiencing their own individual streams of consciousness of which I am not directly aware. It is both entertaining and instructive to watch living leukocytes crawling about within the transparent tissues of a living tadpole's tail. They give every indication of choosing their paths, experiencing uncertainty, making decisions, changing their minds, feeling contacts, etc., that we observe in larger individuals. . . .
     So I feel compelled to accept the conclusion that I am a community of individuals who have somehow become integrated into a higher order of individuality endowed with a higher order of mind which somehow coordinates and harmonizes the activities of the lesser individuals within me.

31. Ibid., p.65.
32. McCrady, Edward, Religious Perspectives of College Teaching in Biology, New Haven, Connecticut, Edward W. Hazen Foundation, 1950, pp.19—20.

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     How is this unification achieved? Most would say that it somehow does it itself. Sir Alister Hardy believes it is the result of some kind of group-mind, of mental telepathy at a very basic and semi- or sub-conscious level. He wrote: (33)

      It is possible to imagine some such pattern of shared unconscious experience: a kind of composite species pattern of life. It is important to remember that in the concept of the individual mind we are faced with a mystery no less remarkable. The mind cannot be anchored to this or that group of cells that make up the brain. The community of cells making up the body has a mind beyond the individual cells — the "impression" coming from one part of the brain receiving sensory impulses from one eye and that from another part of the brain from the other eye are merged together in the mind (i.e., as a whole), not in some particular cells as far as we know.

     Lewis Thomas has a beautiful discussion of this gathering together to a critical size of the number of minded components that then make a fully conscious and purposeful whole. (34)

     Termites are even more extraordinary in the way they seem to accumulate intelligence as they gather together. Two or three termites in a chamber will begin to pick up pellets and move them from place to place, but nothing comes of it; nothing is built. As more join in, they seem to reach a critical mass, a quorum, and the thinking begins. They place pellets atop pellets, then throw up columns and beautiful, curving, symmetrical arches, and the crystalline architecture of vaulted chambers is created. It is not known how they communicate with each other, how the chains of termites building one column know when to turn toward the crew of the adjacent column, or how, when the time comes, they manage the flawless joining of the arches. The stimuli that set them off at the outset, building collectively instead of shifting things about, may be pheromones [scent given off by one animal to signal to another] released when they reach committee size. They react as if alarmed. They become agitated, excited, and then they begin working like artists.

     Even more closely knit in organization is the conglomerate of free living cells which constitutes the Portuguese Man-of-War. This organism is really a

33. Hardy, Sir Alister, The Living Stream, London, Collins, 1965, p.257.
34. Thomas, Lewis, The Lives of a Cell, New York, Viking, 1974, p.13.

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colony of originally identical polyps, each of which is specialized for a particular function. But who or what decides which shall become the tentacles, or the floats, or the reproductive organs? And this Man-of-War is by no means alone in this respect.
     Recent experiments have shown that healthy organs that have been teased apart will re-assemble and show themselves to be, within the limitations of their isolated condition, functional. It has been demonstrated for frogs' eggs,
(35) brain cells, (36) heart cells, (37) and kidney tissue. (38) It has even been reported that cells which prove to be deficient in some way in the re-assembly process will be helped along if necessary by healthy cells. (39) Such a system of communication and co-ordination of activity suggests an organizing force or "field" of some kind (these words being used not because they explain anything but because they appear to cover our ignorance of what is going on).
     So we see the possibility of mindedness in an individualistic form in the very lowest orders of life, and we see individualistic mindedness elaborated in conglomerates of cells which are able to communicate and constitute themselves into a larger form of mindedness. Nevertheless, the basic problem of whence arose mindedness, even in the unicellular forms, still remains behind all the later complications. We thus have the three possible views (see Figure 1): the panpsychic or "always there" view, the "sudden emergence view," and the "introduction of mind by creation ex nihilo view" (with its two forms).
     We have already referred to a remarkable volume written jointly by Sir Karl Popper and Sir John Eccles. Together they have examined, somewhat in the form of a debate, both the origin of mindedness and the nature of the interaction between mind and brain.
     Both men reject panpsychism and agree that man ends up constitutionally as a duality of mind and matter, each of which has a measure of real independence and each of which interacts with the other.
     Popper argues against the necessity of assuming that mind has been "always there" in matter. "We do not need to postulate," he says, "that the food which the body eats (and which in the end may form its brain) has

35. Montagu, Ashley, On Being Human, New York, Henry Schuman, 195), p.34.
36. Seeds, Nicholas and Albert E. Vetter, Proceedings of the National Academy of Science, vol.68, p.3219; L. W. Lapham and W. R. Markesbury, "Human Fetal Cerebellar Cortex: Organization and Maturation of Cells in Vitro," Science, vol.173, 27 August, 1971, p.829—32.
37. Harary, Isaac, "Heart Cells in Vitro," Scientific American, May, 1962, pp.141—52.
38. Weiss, Paul, and A. C. Taylor, "Reconstruction of Complex Organs from Single Cell Suspensions of Chick Embryos in Advanced Stages of Differentiation," Proceedings of the National Academy of Science, vol.46, September, 1960, p.177—85.
39. Chedd, Graham, "Cellular Samaritans," New Scientist, 31 October, 1968, p.256.

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qualities which can be, with informative success, described as pre-mental or as in any way even distantly similar to mind." (40) All that is required is that matter has the capability of assuming a form that is appropriate to mindedness and that when this occurs mindedness somehow appears.
     Eccles holds that mind cannot be introduced until matter is sufficiently organized. But he argues that the organization of the individual as a unitary self out of the materials of the body is due to the self-conscious mind which neither is in the materials themselves nor arises out of them but is introduced from outside. The minded self is an active organizer that brings about unification and employs this unified system for its own purposes.
     Both men are therefore dualists, though they hold differing views as to the origin of the mind. For Popper, matter somehow gives birth to mind; this is all that can be said about it. For Eccles, the origin of the mind seems more like a creation ex nihilo for each individual.
     Before exploring their conclusions more fully, we turn to the experimental evidence that led them to accept an interactionist model.

40. Popper, Sir Karl and Sir John Eccles, The Self and Its Brain, Springer Verlag International, 1977, p.69.

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Copyright © 1988 Evelyn White. All rights reserved

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