Imágenes de páginas

to be made for local conditions. So that perience for their genesis than that which while the astronomer is constantly enabled suffices to call these faculties into exercise. to point to the fulfilment of his predictions But by the advocates of the doctrine which as an evidence of the correctness of his regards experience as the basis of all our method, the geologist is almost entirely knowledge, it is maintained that the primadestitute of any such means of verification. ry beliefs of each individual are nothing For the value of any prediction that he else than generalizations which he forms of may hazard-as in regard to the existence such experiences as he has either himself or non-existence of coal in any given area acquired or has consciously learned from

- depends not only upon the truth of the others; and they deny that there is any general doctrines of geology in regard to original or intuitive tendency to the formathe succession of stratified deposits, but tion of such beliefs, beyond that which constill more upon the detailed knowledge sists in the power of retaining and genewhich he may have acquired of the distri- ralizing experiences. bution of those deposits in the particular I have not introduced this subject with locality. Hence no reasonably-judging any idea of placing before you even a man would discredit either the general summary of the ingenious arguments by doctrines or the methods of geology, be- which these opposing doctrines have been cause the prediction proves untrue in such respectively supported; nor should I have a case as that now about to be brought in touched on the question at all, if I did not this neighborhood to the trial of experi- believe that a means of reconcilement beence.

tween them can be found in the idea that We have thus considered man's function the intellectual intuitions of any one generaas the scientific interpreter of Nature in two tion are the embodied experiences of the departments of natural knowledge; one of previous race. For, as it appears to me, which affords an example of the strictest, there has been a progressive improvement and the other of the freest method, which in the thinking power of man-every proman can employ in constructing his intel- duct of the culture which has preceded lectual representation of the universe. serving to prepare the soil for yet more And as it would be found that in the study abundant harvests in the future. of all other departments, the same methods Now, as there can be no doubt of the are used, either separately or in combina- hereditary transmission in man of acquired tion, we may pass at once to the other side constitutional peculiarities, which manifest of our inquiry-namely, the origin of those themselves alike in tendencies to bodily primary beliefs which constitute the and to mental disease, so it seems equally groundwork of all scientific reasoning. certain that acquired mental habitudes often

The whole fabric of geometry rests upon impress themselves on his organization certain axioms which every one accepts as with sufficient force and permanence to true, but of which it is necessary that the occasion their transmission to the offspring truth should be assumed, because they are

as tendencies to similar modes of thought. incapable of demonstration. So, too, the And thus, while all admit that knowledge deliverances of our “common sense” de- cannot thus descend from one generation rive their trustworthiness from what we to another, an increased aptitude for the consider the “self-evidence” of the propo- acquirement, either of knowledge generalsitions affirmed.

ly, or of some particular kind of it, may be This inquiry brings us face to face with thus inherited. These tendencies and apone of the great philosophical problems of titudes will acquire additional strength, exour day, which has been discussed by logi- pansion, and permanence, in each new cians and metaphysicians of the very high- generation, from their habitual exercise est ability as leaders of opposing schools, upon the materials supplied by a continuwith the one result of showing how much ally enlarged experience; and thus the accan be said on each side. By the Intui- quired habitudes produced by the intellecttionalists it is asserted that the tendency to ual culture of ages, will become “ a second form these primary beliefs is inborn in man, nature" to every one who inherits them.* an original part of his mental organization; so that they grow up spontaneously in his

* I am glad to be able to append the following mind as his faculties are gradually unfold- extract from a letter which Mr. John Mill, the ed and developed, requiring no other ex- good enough to write to me a few months since, We have an illustration of this progress shadow forth. Granting this freely, I in the fact of continual occurrence, that think it may be shown that the intuitions conceptions which prove inadmissible to of individual genius are but specially exaltthe minds of one generation, in conse- ed forms of endowments which are the quence either of their want of intellectual general property of the race at the time, power to apprehend them, or of their pre- and which have come to be so in virtue of occupation by older habits of thought, sub- its whole previous culture. Who, for exsequently find a universal acceptance, and ample, could refuse to the marvellous aptieven come to be approved as “self-evi- tude for perceiving the relations of numdent.” Thus the first law of motion, di- bers, which displayed itself in the untuvined by the genius of Newton, though tored boyhood of George Bidder and Zeopposed by many philosophers of his time rah Colburn, the title of an intuitive gift? as contrary to all experience, is now ac- But who, on the other hand, can believe cepted by common consent, not merely as that a Bidder or a Colburn could suddena legitimate inference from experiment, ly arise in a race of savages who cannot but as the expression of a necessary and count beyond five? Or, again, in the hisuniversal truth; and the same axiomatic tory of the very earliest years of Mozart, value is extended to the still more general who can fail to recognize the dawn of that doctrine, that energy of any kind, whether glorious genius whose brilliant but brief manifested in the “molar” motion of mas- career left its imperishable impress on the ses, or consisting in the “molecular" mo- art it enriched ?But who would be bold tion of atoms, must continue under some enough to affirm that an infant Mozart form or other without abatement or decay; could be born amongst a tribe whose only what all admit in regard to the indestructi- musical instrument is a tom-tom, whose bility of matter being accepted as no less only song is a monotonous chant ? true of force, namely, that as ex nihilo nil Again, by tracing the gradual genesis of fit, so nil fit ad nihilum.*

some of those ideas which we now accept But, it may be urged, the very concep- as “self-evident,"—such, for example, as tion of these and similar great truths is in that of the “ Uniformity of Nature"-we itself a typical example of intuition. The are able to recognize them as the expresmen who divined and enunciated them sions of certain intellectual tendencies, stand out above their fellows as) possessed which have progressively augmented in of a genius that could not only combine force in successive generations, and now but create, of an insight which could clear- manifest themselves as mental instincts ly discern what reason could but dimly that penetrate and direct our ordinary

course of thought. Such instincts constiwith reference to the attempt I had made to place tute a precious heritage, which has been "common sense upon this basis (Contemporary transmitted to us with ever-increasing value Review, Feb. 1872):—When states of mind in through the long succession of precedno respect innate or instinctive have been frequently repeated, the mind acquires, as is proved ing generations; and which it is for us to by the power of habit, a greatly increased facility transmit to those who shall come after us, of passing into those states; and this increased fa- with all that further increase which our cility must be owing to some change of a physical higher culture and wide range of knowcharacter in the organic action of the brain. There is also considerable evidence that such ac

ledge can impart. quired facilities of passing into certain modes of And now, having studied the working cerebral action can, in many cases, be transmitted, action of the human intellect in the scienmore or less completely, by inheritance. The tific interpretation of Nature, we shall exditions on which it depends, are a subject now fair- amine the general character of its proly before the scientific world; and we shall, doubt- ducts; and the first of these with which less, in time, know much more about them than we shall deal is our conception of matter we do now. But so far as my imperfect know and its relation to force. ledge of the subject qualifies me to have an opinion, I take much the same view of it that you do, views matter entirely through the light of

The psychologist of the present day at least in principle."

* This is the form in which the doctrine now his own consciousness : his idea of matter known as that of the “ Conservation of Energy” in the abstract being that it is a “somewas enunciated by Dr. Mayer, in the very re; thing" which has a permanent power of

Die organische Bewegung in ihrem Zusammen. exciting sensations; his idea of any "prohange mit dem Stoffwechsel.'

perty" of matter being the mental repre. sentation of some kind of sensory impress our souls in our scientific childhood, and of sion he has received from it; and his idea which the popular term “electric fluid" is of any particular kind of matter being the a“ survival,” we accept these properties as representation of the whole aggregate of affording the practical distinction between the sense perceptions which its presence the “ material and the “ immaterial.” has called up in his mind. Thus, when I Turning now to that other great portal press my hand against this table, I recog- of sensation, the sight, through which we nize its unyieldingness through the con- receive most of the messages sent to us joint medium of my sense of touch, my from the universe around, we recognize the muscular sense, and my mental sense same truth. Thus it is agreed alike by of effort, to which it will be convenient physicists and physiologists, that color does to give the general designation of the not exist as such in the object itself, which tactile sense; and I attribute to that has merely the power of reflecting or transtable a hardness which resists the effort mitting a certain number of millions of unI made to press my hand into its sub- dulations in a second; and these only prostance, whilst I also recognize the fact that duce that affection of our consciousness the force I have employed is not sufficient which we call color when they fall upon to move its mass. But I press my hand the retina of the living percipient. And if against a lump of dough; and finding that there be that defect either in the retina or its substance yields under my pressure, I in the apparatus behind it which we call call it soft. Or again, I press my hand " color-blindness," or Daltonism, some against this desk, and I find that although particular hues can not be distinguished, I do not thereby change its form, I change or there may even be no power of distinits place; and so I get the tactile idea of mo- guishing any color whatever. If we were tion. Again, by the impressions received all like Dalton, we should see no differthrough the same sensorial apparatus, when ence, except in form, between ripe cherries I lift this book in my hand, I am led to attach hanging on a tree and the green leaves to it the notion of weight or ponderosity; around them : if we were all affected with and by lifting different solids of about the the severest form of color-blindness, the same size, I am enabled, by the different fair face of nature would be seen by us as degrees of exertion I find myself obliged in the chiaroscuro of an engraving of one to make in order to sustain them, to dis- of Turner's landscapes, not as in the glowtinguish some of them as light, and others ing hues of the wondrous picture itself. as heavy. Through the medium of an- And in regard to our visual conceptions, it other set of sense-perceptions, which some may be stated with perfect certainty, as regard as belonging to a different category, the result of very numerous observations we distinguish between bodies that feel made upon persons who have acquired “hot” and those that feel cold;" and in sight for the first time, that these do not this manner we arrive at the notion of dif- serve for the recognition even of those obferences of temperature. And it is through jects with which the individual had become the medium of our tactile sense, without most familiar through the touch, until the any aid from vision, that we first gain the two sets of sense-perceptions have been coidea of solid form, or the three dimensions ordinated by experience.* of space.

When once this coördination has been Again, by the extension of our tactile effected, however, the composite percepexperiences, we acquire the notion of li- tion of form which we derive from the visquids, as forms of matter yielding readily ual sense alone is so complete, that we selto pressure, but possessing a sensible weight which may equal that of solids; * Thus, in a recently recorded case in which and of air, whose resisting power is much sight was imparted by operation to a young woslighter, and whose weight is so small that man who had been blind from birth, but who had

nevertheless learned to work well with her needle, it can only be made sensible by artificial when the pair

of scissors she had been accustommeans. Thus, then, we arrive at the no- ed to use was placed before her, though she detions of resistance and of weight as proper- scribed their shape, color, and glistening metallic ties common to all forms of matter; and them as scissors until she put her finger on them, now that we have got rid of that idea of when she at once named them, laughing at her light and heat, electricity and magnetism, as own stupidity (as she called it) in not having made “imponderable fluids," which used to vex them out before.

dom require to fall back upon the touch conception," how are we to distinguish for any further information respecting that this from such as we form in our dreams ? quality of the object. So, again, while it --for these, as our Laureate no less happiis from the coördination of the two dissim- ly than philosophically expresses it, are ilar pictures formed by any solid or pro- "true while they last.” Here our “comjecting object upon our two retinæ, that mon sense” comes to the rescue. We (as Sir Charles Wheatstone's admirable in- “awake, and behold it was a dream.” vestigations have shown) we ordinarily de- Every healthy mind is conscious of the difrive through the sight alone a correct no- ference between his waking and his dreamtion of its solid form, there is adequate evi- ing experiences; or, if he is now and then dence that this notion also is a mental puzzled to answer the question, “Did this judgment, based on the experience we really happen, or did I dream it?" the perhave acquired in early infancy by the con- plexity arises from the consciousness that sentaneous exercise of the visual and tac- it might have happened.

it might have happened. And every healtile senses.

thy mind, finding its own experiences of Take, again, the case of those wonderful its waking state not only self-consistent, instruments by which our visual range is but consistent with the experiences of othextended almost into the infinity of space, ers, accepts them as the basis of his beliefs, or into the infinity of minuteness. It is in preference to even the most vivid recolthe mental, not the bodily eye, that takes lections of his dreams. cognizance of what the telescope and the The lunatic pauper who regards himself microscope reveal to us; for we should as a king, the asylum in which he is conhave no well-grounded confidence in their fined as a palace of regal splendor, and his revelations as to the unknown, if we had keepers as obsequious attendants, is so not first acquired experience in distinguis- "possessed” by the conception framed by ing the true from the false by applying his disordered intellect, that he does prothem to known objects; and every inter- ject it out of himself into his surroundings; pretation of what we see through their in- his refusal to admit the corrective teaching strumentality is a mental judgment as to of common sense being the very essence the probable form, size, and movement of of his malady. And there are not a few bodies removed by either their distance or persons abroad in the world who equally their minuteness from being cognosced by resist the teachings of educated common our sense of touch.

sense whenever they run counter to their The case is still stronger in regard to own preconceptions, and who may be rethat last addition to our scientific arma- garded as—in so far—affected with what I mentum, which promises to be not inferior once heard Mr. Carlyle pithily characterize in value either to the telescope or the mi- as a

“ diluted insanity.” croscope; for it may be truly said of the It has been asserted, over and over spectroscope, that it has not merely extend- again, of late years, by a class of men who ed the range of our vision, but has almost claim to be the only true interpreters of given us a new sense, by enabling us to Nature, that we know nothing but matter recognize distinctive properties in the and laws of matter, and that force is a chemical elements which were previously mere fiction of the imagination. May it quite unknown. And who shall now say not be affirmed, on the other hand, that that we know all that is to be known as while our notion of matter is a conception to any form of matter? or that the science of the intellect, force is that of which we of the fourth quarter of this century may have the most direct-perhaps even the onnot furnish us with as great an enlarge- ly direct--cognizance? As I have already ment of our knowledge of its properties, shown you, the knowledge of resistance and of our power of recognizing them, as and of weight which we gain through our that of its third has done?

tactile sense is derived from our own perBut, it may be said, is not this view of ception of exertion ; and in vision, as in the material universe open to the imputa- hearing, it is the force with which the untion that it is “evolved out of the depths dulations strike the sensitive surface that of our own consciousness"-a projection affects our consciousness with sights or of our own intellect into what surrounds sounds. True it is that in our visual and us-an ideal rather than a real world ? If auditory sensations, we do not, as in our all we know of matter be an "intellectual tactile, directly cognosce the force which produces them; but the physicist has no tions which gives the power a new acdifficultyi n making sensible to us indirect- tion. by the undulations by which sound is propa- Many of you have doubtless viewed with gated, and in proving to our intellect that admiring interest that truly wonderful work the force concerned in the transmission of of human design, the Walter printing-malight is really enormous."

chine. You first examine it at rest; presIt seems strange that those who make ently comes a man who simply pulls a hanthe loudest appeal to experience as the ba- dle towards him, and the whole inert sis of all knowledge, should thus disregard mechanism becomes instinct with life—the the most constant, the most fundamental, the blank paper continuously rolling off the most direct of all experiences; as to which cylinder at one end, being delivered at the the common sense of mankind affords à other, without any intermediate human guiding light much clearer than any that can agency, as large sheets of print, at the rate be seen through the dust of philosophical of 15,000 in an hour. Now what is the discussion. For, as Sir John Herschel most cause of this most marvellous effect ? Suretruly remarked, the universal conscious- ly it lies essentially in the power or force ness of mankind is as much in accord in which the pulling of the handle brought to regard to the existence of a real and inti- bear on the machine from some extranemate connection between cause and effect, ous source of power—which we in this inas it is in regard to the existence of an ex- stance know to be a steam-engine on the ternal world, and that consciousness arises other side of the wall. This force it is, to every one out of his own sense of personal which, distributed through the various exertion in the origination of changes by parts of the mechanism, really performs his individual agency.

the action of which each is the instrument; Now, while fully accepting the logical they only supply the vehicle for its transdefinition of cause as the “ antecedent or mission and application. The man comes concurrence of antecedents on which the again, pushes the handle in the opposite effect is invariably and unconditionally direction, detaches the machine from the consequent,” we can always single out one steam-engine, and the whole comes to a dynamical antecedent--the power which stand; and so it remains, like an inanimate does the work-from the aggregate of ma- corpse, until recalled to activity by the reterial conditions under which that power newal of its moving power, may be distributed and applied. No doubt But, say the reasoners who deny that the term “ cause” is very loosely applied force is any thing else than a fiction of the in popular phraseology-often as Mr. imagination, the revolving shaft of the Mill has shown) to designate the occur- steam-engine is “ matter in motion;" and rence that immediately preceded the ef- when the connection is established between fect ;-as when it is said that the spark that shaft and the one that drives the mawhich falls into a barrel of gunpowder is chine, the motion is communicated from the cause of its explosion, or that the slip- the former to the latter, and thence distribping of a man's foot off the rung of a lad- uted to the several parts of the mechanism. der is the cause of his fall. But even a This account of the operation is just what very slightly trained intelligence can dis- an observer might give who had looked on tinguish the power which acts in each case with entire ignorance of every thing but from the conditions under which it acts. what his eyes could see; the moment he The force which produces the explosion is puts his hand upon any part of the machilocked up (as it were) in the powder; and nery, and tries to stop its motion, he takes ignition merely liberates it, by bringing as direct cognizance, through his sense of about new chemical combinations. The the effort required to resist it, of the force fall of the man from the ladder is due to which produces that motion, as he does the gravity which was equally pulling him through his eye of the motion itself. down while he rested on it; and the loss Now, since it is universally admitted of support, either by the slipping of his that our notion of the external world would foot, or by the breaking of the rung, is be not only incomplete, but erroneous, if merely that change in the material condi- our visual perceptions were not supple

mented by our tactile, so, as it seems to * See Sir John Herschel's Familiar Lectures me, our interpretation of the phenomena on Scientific Subjects.'

of the universe must be very inade

« AnteriorContinuar »