Faculties of the Criminal Mind: Combativeness

Perhaps most obvious in the archetype of the prisoner is an excess of personal courage to the point of assurance in attacking others. James Browne points out that men’s propensity towards courage typically manifests, paradoxically, in shorter or more feeble men- that is, those that may not receive the best odds in any physical combat. Therefore, this excess of courage could not come from a place of rationale in which the subject is aware of his stature when engaging in combat; rather his courage manifests somewhere else entirely, within his behavioral programing.

Browne goes on to relay the primitive nature of courage and infatuation to the point of defense of an object or idea. The evidence of ancient and powerful civilizations like the Chinese and American Indians (Browne’s examples), justify for him the propensity to defend one’s object of love or friendship through the power of force. The faculty’s innate existence in these indigenous peoples justifies a theory of phrenology that sustains the shared propensity for courage and combativeness in humans across generations: “…cases could be recorded where benevolent anxiety for the safety of another has caused an individual with moderate Combativeness to rush into danger in the presence of persons much bolder than himself, and in whom the organ was much larger…” (i) This faculty is marked in excess by a skull which in “the region in question is not only very broad, but remarkable also for a convex projection.” (ii)

-Elisabeth A. Boniface

Works Cited

i. Browne, on the topic of combativeness. 120-121


ii. ibid. 121