« AnteriorContinuar »
before they see—it is just as all animals see before they run and gambol on their pastures.
2. “Genius is generally partial : a man is often an excellent musician who has no talent for painting or metaphysics.'—Genius is generally partial, for it is not often in the power of man to give that time and undisturbed attention to more than one pursuit which is necessary for great eminence. The causes which may divert an individual mind into any one track are many. A delicate organization, either in the eye or the ear, may be the prosimate cause which induces, in a susceptible mind, a love of painting, or music. The physical temperament of an individual has a strong influence in directing his intellectual powers, whether, for instance, to poetry or metaphysics. Circumstances of life operate still more in deciding the current of his thoughts. If after these general remarks there is any mystery still hanging over the simple fact that men's minds are not all equal, but surpass each other, some in this talent, and some in that, we, at least, are not oppressed by the difficulty. We find it just as easy to admit an original disparity in that existence we call the mind, as an original difference in the size of the phrenological organs.
3. · In dreaming, one or more faculties are awake, while others are asleep; and if all acted by means of one organ, they could not possibly be in different states at the same time.'—What are the faculties that can be positively pronounced asleep during the hours of dreaming? Our ideas proceed, at this time, in a very loose, disorderly manner, but what one faculty can be said to be absolutely inactive? We imagine strange things, and reason very oddly, and entertain very perverse sentiments, but still we feel, and reason, and imagine. But—if certain faculties were shown to be decidedly torpid in the state of dreaming, this would afford no presumption in favour of a multitude of organs. It is quite as difficult to understand why one of the intellectual organs should fall asleep while the others are awake, as why the mind should continue to act in some of its modes, and cease as to others.
4. • Idiocy and insanity are generally partial, which could not be if all the faculties depended upon one organ.'-Here is another • could not be' which, however positively affirmed, has no warrant whatever. That all the faculties really depend upon one organ it is not our business to prove; for of the corporeal organization through which the mind operates, we confess ourselves in ignorance. But the existence of partial insanity is quite as possible on this hypothesis as on that of the phrenologist. Partial insanity, according to him, results from the derangement of one of the organs. What is meant by this derangement but that the organ acts imperfectly on some occasions and perfectly on others? The nature
of the cases of partial insanity forbids him from describing the organ as altogether and utterly impaired. What the phrenologist may assert of one of his organs, surely another individual may predicate of the whole brain, considered as an entire organ, and describe this also as acting perfectly on some occasions, and imperfectly on others.
5. · Partial injuries of the brain do not equally affect all the mental powers; which they would do if the organ of the mind were single.'—This is bold strategy on the part of the phrenologist, to seize that for an argument of his own which he knows will be thrown as an obstacle in his
We shall content ourselves with asking-Do partial injuries of the brain affect the mental powers in the manner they ought to do if phrenology were true ?
Such are the presumptions which are to induce us to expect with eagerness, and to receive with confidence, the more direct testimony which the phrenologist has to offer for the existence of these unheard-of organs. This he now proceeds to demonstrate. by strict inductions of experience. The head is marked with a number of prominences,—these he measures,- and taking note, at the same time, of the mental and moral qualifications of the individual,-pronounces that there is a strict conformity between the size of the former, and the degree of strength and vigour of the latter. Can any procedure be more simple-more philosophical—more Baconian?
Now, that which first occurs to us is the extreme difficulty-the impossibility we might say—of deciding, in the far greater number of cases, on the degree in which a mental faculty is possessed by the subject of experiment. The swellings of the head admit, indeed, of admeasurement, and stand before us in unalterable reality, but the swellings of the man's mind and character shift and fluctuate with our changeful appreciation. If, of two subjects between which it is proposed to institute a comparison, the one is uncertain and fluctuating, it is in vain that you insist on the steady and stable character of the other. The phrenologist appeals to length and breadth during one-half of his process—but his process is worth nothing till the other half is completed, and during this latter half his data are very obscure and unsatisfactory. With so complicated and flexible a subject as a human character to deal with, he may find no difficulty in multiplying his list of seeming proofs; but this very circumstance, which obtains for him an easy and ostentatious triumph, renders it almost hopeless that he should ever secure for his observations a steadfast and indisputable authority. We admit that the phrenologist can exhibit to us the busts of many
eminent men very distinctly marked with those protuberances supposed to indicate the talents for which they were really celebrated. But we know also that protuberances of the same kind, and quite as ample, may be detected on the foreheads of people not at all remarkable for the qualifications these are said to portend. Many a man, we are well assured, who passes through life in noiseless and happy mediocrity, ought to be a great genius if credit were but given to the elevations of his skull.
Here we are met with a host of explanations. These cases of disparity between the mental and the craniological development are owing, it seems, to the different degrees of erercise which the brain has received; for though the organ, we are elsewhere told, " will always seek its own gratification,' it may yet be repressed by invincible circumstances, or it may be encouraged to a disproportionate activity by favourable events. Again, the temperament of the individual is to be taken into consideration, because two brains may be of the same size; but if the one be of the lymphatic, and the other of the nervous temperament, there will be great difference in the powers of manifesting the faculties.' Age, also, and ill health, produce deceptive appearances on the skull, so that demonstrative evidence is to be looked for in healthy individuals not beyond the middle period of life.' Now, we quarrel not with these explanatory circumstances, but let the reader call to mi that we are still in search for evidence to establish the eristence of the phrenological organs; and that these causes of disturbance must be taken into consideration as well in those cases which lave seemed favourable to the theory, as those which are adverse. We wish to draw attention to the following observation - If the natural predominance of an organ may be thwarted by the contradiction of circumstances-if the degree of exercise it has received may endow it with a disproportionate energy_if the temperament of its possessor may greatly influence its powers—if age and sickness may interfere with its external manifestations—and if, moreover, according to the analogy of the senses, its quality as well as magnitude ought to be an element in the calculation-how little is left to be determined by the mere size of the organ! How very rarely could two cases be found, which, agreeing in all these secondary circumstances, admitted of any safe deduction being drawn from the measurement alone of the external form! How hopeless the endeavour to prove that any two cases have this necessary congruity! The phrenologist has seen too much, if, after this, he pretends to any palpable evidence; yet, without very palpable evidence, he cannot, in the first place, establish his hypothesis. Doubtless, it is extremely unfortunate for the cause of truth; but, according to his own array of circumstances, it seems
impossible that he should obtain any satisfactory testimony of the existence of these organs by (what is the only means at his disposal) the measurement of the surface of the head. The only mode of discovery which he professes—the comparison of size—is rendered utterly inadequate by the number of other influential circumstances, the force of which he never, or very rarely, can determine.
Much stress is laid upon the different formation of skull observable in the various races of mankind—a difference which is pronounced to be in strict accordance with the principles of phrenology; but this argument must wait for whatever cogency it
may possess, till it is decided whether these national diversities are due to those adventitious circumstances which conduct to civilization, or are the result of in-born tendencies. Our British ancestors were a race of painted barbarians, yet they possessed the Caucasian formation. We must wait till the Malay savage has undergone the same tuition of fortunate circumstances, before we pronounce that his receding forehead has condemned him to a life of ignorant and headstrong passion.
Neither are we greatly affected by the feats said to be performed in prisons and in mad-houses by the discriminating phrenologist. In a company of thieves, M. Gall, or Spurzheim, we forget which, saw the organ of theft very largely and uniformly developed. This organ has since acquired the more respectable name of acquisiticeness, and now the Gall or Spurzheim of the day can behold it, we presume, equally developed in any coinpany he enters.
Such is the kind of evidence on which is founded one of the most extraordinary theories that ever disgraced the unfortunate science of mental philosophy! By rapidly assuming the truth of his hypothesis, the phrenologist is capable of making a stand by means of that very complication and obscurity of his subject which ought to have been present to his mind at the first step of his progress. Once grant the existence of the thirty-six organs, reciprocally acting on each other, and influenced by adventitious circumstances, and he is a man of little ingenuity who cannot prove any possible arrangement of them to accord with the character of any given individual, or provide a plausible account for the apparent discrepancy. “We build on facts,' exclaim the phrenologists. • What avail your abstract reasonings You must convict us with contradictory facts, and this is impossible.' We acknowledge that it is impossible. There are bumps upon the head, and there are faculties in the mind; and if you have once convinced yourself that these exist as cause and effect, we confess that you are so strong in the weakness, obscurity, and flexibility of your materials,
that it is impossible to dislodge you from this position. You are, nevertheless, very bad reasoners for having assumed it. In the days of astrology, there were stars shining in the heavens, and there were diversities of fate amongst the inhabitants of the earth; and the reasoner, who had once persuaded himself that the changeful aspects of those luminous bodies occasioned the vicissitudes of human affairs, was proof against every argument derived from facts. How could he possibly be refuted by the facts of the case, when he had already shown himself incapable of estimating their value?
We have thus scrutinized—with more attention, perhaps, than our readers will think the subject deserved—the theory of phrenology and the evidence on which it is founded. That such a system, and so supported, should have attained any favour, ought to be somewhat humiliating to our intellectual pride. There is a pleasure, however, in dogmatizing on the character of our neighbour, of understanding the most secret processes of his mind, and this phrenology has rendered quite easy to persons heretofore considered as remarkable for anything but acuteness and perspicacity. We are willing to believe that some may have assumed a nominal belief in the science (!) merely for that air of surpassing knowledge which it gives to the adept. Many more, we know, are pleased to let it run its course, in hope that the observations of its disciples, by whatever system directed, may lead ultimately to some curious facts on the connexion between the brain and the phenomena of thought : this is its most favourable aspect, How much longer the absurdity has to live we pretend not to divine; reasoning, we suspect, however cogent, will do but little towards its extermination; and the doctors and disciples, groping and canting away in their complacent coteries, are far above attaching any sort of importance to the undeniable fact that no man of distinguished general ability has hitherto announced his adhesion to their creed.
Art. IX.-A Letter to the Editor of the Quarterly Review in
Reply to certain Strictures in that Publication on the Rev. Dr. Keith's · Evidence of Prophecy. From the Rev. James Brewster,
Minister of Craig. Edinburgh. 8vo. 1836.* RELUCTANT as we in general are, to notice controversially
I the appeals which authors are so apt to make from the judgment of their reviewers, we should have had great pleasure in giving circulation to this reply if we could honestly say that it
* See Article VI. in No. CV. of the Quarterly Review.