Page images
PDF
EPUB

confound the two series ; the physiolo- On the other hand, Professor Bain, the gists continually applying psychological psychologist of the school, largely adopts, terms to bodily elements and functions, if he did not introduce, the equally vicious and the psychologists employing physi- plan of describing mental states and proological terms to describe mental states cesses in physiological language. He and operations. Mr. Darwin himself is continually drags in physical details and a great offender in this respect. The phrases, which simply disfigure the expovery title of his ablest and best known sition without throwing any light on the work illustrates this confusion. “ The mental facts to be explained. Professor Origin of Species by means of Natural Huxley attempts, it is true, to justify this Selection ” might be fairly paraphrased inaccurate and misleading use of the lanas “ The Origin of Species by means of guage. Blind Foresight, Haphazard Deliberation,

“ In itself,” he says, “it is of little moment and Necessary Choice.” The phrase whether we express the phænomena of matter “ necessary choice” is the exact equiva- in terms of spirit, or the phænomena of spirit lent of “natural selection," and strictly in terms of matter; matter may be regarded as interpreted it is simply a contradiction in a form of thought, thought may be regarded terms. The very object of Mr. Darwin's as a property of matter; cach statement has a theory is to exclude the conception of in- certain relative truth. But with a view to the telligence, forecast, and design from the progress of science, the materialistic terminoloperations of nature, yet the most im- ogy is in every way to be preferred. For it portant term used in describing the the of the universe, and suggests inquiry into the

connects thought with the other phænomena ory has no distinctive meaning apart from nature of those physical conditions, or conmind. Almost any section of Mr. Dar- comitants of thought, which are more or less win's writings would furnish abundant accessible to us; . . . whereas the alternative, instances of a like kind.

or spiritualistic, terminology is utterly barren, But this vice of confusion appears in and leads to nothing but obscurity and confustill more flagrant form in the writings of sion of ideas.” Dr. Maudesley. Not content with an oc- If we understand this passage, Professor casional raid into the neighbouring prov- Huxley appears to say that such terms as ince, Dr. Maudesley attempts to carry thought and feeling, volition and desire, over the great body of psychological are barren, if not confused and unintelliterms into physiology. He thus invests gible, and ought therefore to be abanhis purely physical expositions with doned. But that to speak of glandular a verbal' haze or glamour of emo- secretions, cerebral currents, ganglionic tional, imaginative, and volitional lan- shocks, and.molecular changes, instead guage. The title of his chief work, “ The of intelligence, emotion, and will, is perPhysiology of the Mind,” indicates the fectly comprehensible, and contributes to kind of verbal confusion that infects its the advancement of knowledge. In other expositions. To harmonize with this words, that in dealing with mental phefeature of the work the more appropriate nomena it is more scientific to speak of title would have been the “ Psychology their physical conditions or correlatives, of the Body." The special sensations of of which we are never conscious, and the cerebral neurine are called by Dr. which are indeed unknown, than to speak Maudesley emotions ; the equilibrium of of the phenomena themselves, which apnervous power is latent thought, "mind pear in the full light of internal percepstatical,” while the disturbance of this tion, and constitute our most habitual and equilibrium is active thought, “mind dy- vivid experiences. Such an attempted denamical.” Then, again, the automatic re- fence is surely its own best refutation. If sponse of animal tissue to an external further refutation were needed, it is found stimulus is, if active, perception; if la- in Professor Tyndall's clear discriminatent, memory; and if irregular, we pre- tion of the two provinces of inquiry, and sume, imagination. If this sort of whole- his emphatic declaration that the fullest sale confounding of bodily elements and knowledge of the one does not throw any products with mental ones goes much light upon the other. In his paper on further, we shall soon have young enter- “ Scientific Materialism,” he points out prising physiologists extending the dic- that the passage from the physics of the tum of Cabanis, and asserting that all the brain to the corresponding fact of consecretions of the body are thoughts, and sciousness is unthinkable. “ Granted all its excretions language, and discrim- that a definite thought and a definite moinating the various excretions as differ- lecular action in the brain occur simulent dialects of a common tongue. taneously, we do not possess the intellectual organ, nor apparently any rudiment or influence may determine. No doubt, of the organs which would enable us to as already intimated, some of the more pass, by a process of reasoning, from the susceptible minds may have been atone to the other. They appear together, tracted not only by the novelty and notobut we do not know why.” “ In affirming riety, but by the grandeur and power, the that the growth of the body is mechanical

, secular sweep and material sublimity, of and that thought, as exercised by us, has the hypothesis itself. But the majority its correlative in the physics of the brain, are probably influenced by more mixed I think the position of the Materialist' and superficial motives. Amongst these is stated, as far as that position is a ten- is the exhilarating sense of freedom able one. I do not think he is entitled to and independence in adopting advanced say that his molecular groupings and his views, and the piquant feeling of conmolecular motions explain everything. scious power in urging them against the In reality they explain nothing. The ut- alarmed remonstrances of acquaintances most he can affirm is the association of and friends. It is pleasant to ride as it two classes of phenomena, of whose real were on the crest of the largest advancDoad of union he is in absolute ignorance." ing wave of scientific speculation, and lay This is the language of science, which the flattering unction to your soul that separates things that are distinct, and you share its pre-eminence, and are part designates different sets of facts by sig- of the power that urges it forward. Unnificant and appropriate terms. And it fortunately these new doctrines afford cuts at the root of the confusion both of sample scope for this seductive species thought and language, which is so char- of self-glorification. The most striking acteristic a feature of the school. It is points in the theory of evolution, as well due to Mr. John Stuart Mill to say that as in its application, are precisely of the he is never guilty of this inexact and mis- kind most readily apprehended by ordileading use of language. He always de- nary minds. That “we were once tadscribes mental facts in physiological poles, you know ;” that men

are determs, and physical facts in physical scended from monkeys, and that “moths terms ; and this is, of course, the only and butterflies flirt with each other as we scientific method. The reverse of the do are propositions requiring no great process, however plausibly disguised or strength of intellect to grasp or to exingeniously defended, is in reality absurd. pound in a lively conversational way. It would be quite as rational to talk of This kind of colloquial acquaintance with dissecting an emotion or preserving an these advanced theories is not unfreidea in spirit, as to talk of consciously as- quently mistaken for a knowledge of natsociating molecular currents, feeling the ural science ; and in many circles, espelogical connexion between two nerve cially in certain sections of London soshocks, or realizing by internal perception ciety, fluent conversational evolutionists the production of phosphorus in the brain. are to be found whose literary culture We fear, however, that the sounder pre- hardly goes deeper than a slight knowlcept of Professor Tyndall, and the higher edge of Mr. Swinburne's poetry, and example of Mr. Mill, will be lost on the whose scientific and philosophical trainmore advanced evolutionists. Mr. Mill ing is restricted to a desultory acquaintis, indeed, already regarded by the new ance with some of Mr. Darwin's more school as somewhat out of date ; his phi-popular works. But whatever may have losophy with them is becoming antiquated. been the special influences in the case of His purer taste and more accurate style individual converts, the majority agree in are hardly likely, therefore, to have much being evolutionists through feeling and influence on young Darwinians revelling fancy rather than through knowledge and in all the looseness of vast but unverified insight. They thus exemplify the moral generalizations, and clothing their crudi- and emotional phenomena connected with ties of thought in the grotesque confusion temporary accesses of social and reliof a Babylonish dialect.

gious excitement. Their enthusiasm is The practical influence of the new doc- for the most part unembarrassed by trince is seen in the rise and rapid growth definite knowledge, and their zeal, like of a psuedo-scientific sect, - the sect of that of recent converts in general, has a the Darwinian evolutionists. This sect tendency to outrun discretion. is largely recruited from the crowd of One note of similarity between the facile minds ever ready to follow the new- Darwinian evolutionists and the more acest fashion in art or science, in social or tive religious sects, is to be found in the religious life, as accidents of association common element of strong but unen

66

lightened belief on which they both so erable condition. This zeal often exlargely depend. The evidence in favour tends to an affectionate solicitude as to of the central Darwinian doctrine is noto- the mental state of the undecided. It riously deficient, but this is no hindrance may then find expression in the into its enthusiastic acceptance. Ardent quiries, “ Are you yet a Darwinian?” neophytes easily personify the principle "Has the great doctrine of evolution been of evolution, and clothe it in imagination revealed to you ?” Has the day-spring with all the powers necessary for the pro- of chaos, necessity, and chance dawned duction of its reputed effects. They upon you, or are you still groping in the trust its working where they cannot outer darkness of creation, intelligence, trace it, and are content to walk by faith, and design?” These anxious inquirers not by sight. On all doubtful points combine with their missionary zeal for the their subjective conviction is so strong unconverted a sectarian keenness of as to be independent of objective verifi- scent for heresy. Any reference to soul cation or outward proof of any kind. or mind, to rational order, foresight, or The external evidence that men are de- adaptation, they regard with instinctive scended from monkeys, for example, suspicion ; while all such conceptions as is almost wholly wanting ; but happily, in moral order, ordained purpose, formal or the case of docile converts, it is also final causes in nature, are promptly reneedless. Difficulties equally serious are pudiated as mere remnants of ancient removed by the unquestioning faith and outworn superstitions. The missionwhich is the evidence of things not seen, ary efforts of the sect are, in fact, a kind the substance or assurance of all that is of ludicrous travesty of the acts and artieagerly desired. The cavils of sceptics fices of sectarian aggressiveness and selfare of no avail with the true evolutionist assertion. This tendency to intolerance believer, because he has an unfaltering appears also in the writings of the school, trust in his own sacred books and in- especially in the less distinguished. The spired writers. At their bidding he is tone of the discussion in many cases inready to adopt not only things unsup- volves the tacit assumption that the evoluported by reason, things above and be- tionists are the only wise men, and wisyond reason, but things directly opposed dom itself will die with them. This feato all reason, all probability, and all ex- ture comes strongly out in the journals of perience. The new school, indeed, vir- the school in the free use of such terms as tually adopts as its own the more ex-" exploded” and “extinct” applied to all treme and irrational maxims belonging to opposing theories and rival views. Nor the darkest period of religious belief. are the writings of the leaders altogether Thus Dr. Maudesley, referring to the free from this taint of intolerance. Even physical miracles which disciples are Mr. Darwin's courtesy and candour parcalled upon to accept, says expressly : take in a measure of the same spirit." In “In such matters it would be more wise the present volume his casual references to adopt Tertullian's maxim, 'Credo quia to other principles of interpretation than impossibile est,' than that which is so his own, though strictly polite, indicate much favoured by the conceit of human clearly enough that in the writer's opinion ignorance that a thing is impossible they are irrational and absurd. This because it appears to be inconceivable." method of treating opponents, though

Another note of sectarianism in the vastly superior to that of Papel denuncievolutionists is their tendency to intoler- ation, rests on the same assumption of ance. This tendency is manifested, per- infallibility, the same summary rejection haps, in its extremest form amongst the of all rival views, as the more violent rank and file of the sect. It displays it- anathemas of the Sovereign Pontiff. The self, however, in various shapes, some of same spirit is traceable in the writings of which are amusing enough. Sometimes Professor Huxley, perhaps the acutest it appears in the eager denunciation of thinker and most variously accomplished opposing views, the impatience of all ad- man belonging to the school. It is imverse criticism, and the bringing against possible, however, to read his replies to opponents hasty charges of blindness and opponents without feeling that they obstinacy, ignorance and prejudice, ser- breathe a spirit of latent intolerance, and vility, corruption, or fear. At other times are tinged with sectarian bitterness. In the latent spirit of intolerance assumes certain passages of his writings he rises the garb of missionary zeal, appearing in to a pitch of prophetic denunciation, and the tacit assumption that all who are not tells his opponents that they are doomed Darwinians are in a benighted and mis- I to speedy extinction by the nature of

are

things, and will soon be swept from the pursuits. The greatest poets Homer, universe. This extreme tone is probably Virgil, Dante, and Shakespeare due in part to the fact that Professor passed by as mere “fiddlers," while metHuxley has accepted the principle of aphysicians and theologians are deevolution more absolutely than any other nounced as word-jugglers dealing in idle man of science except Mr. Darwin him- abstractions and fictitious entities. Even self, and that consequently he represents history and travels have in their view a what may be called its religious spirit in very secondary and indirect value, as the most concentrated form, and partly helping to throw occasional light on the also to the fact that his nature is essen- physical condition of savage tribes or the tially Puritanic, if not Calvinistic. He material fragments of ancient culture. has the moral earnestness, the volitional As a rule, therefore, the evolutionists energy, the absolute confidence in his have little or no knowledge of literature, own convictions, the desire and deter- philosophy, or history: The fuithful mination to impress them upon all man- Darwinian, like the faithful Mussulman, kind, which are the essential marks of judges the accumulated stores of human Puritan character. His whole temper knowledge from the point of view of his and spirit is essentially dogmatic of the particular faith, and would deal with them Presbyterian or Independent type, and as the Calif Omir did with the Alexanhe might fairly be described as a Round- drian library. If other works contain head who had lost his faith. He himself only what is found in Mr. Darwin, they are shows the truest instinct of this in calling superfluous and need not be kept ; if they his republished essays Lay Sermons. contain anything different, anything, opThey abound, in fact, with the hortatory posed to Mr. Darwin, they are injurious, passages, the solemn personal experien- and ought to be destroyed. The old idea ces, the heart-searchings and earnest ap- of catholic training, of a varied and vigpeals that are found in Puritan literature. orous culture, fitted to develop and The hypothesis of evolution thus met a strengthen all the powers of the mind, is real and vital want in his nature, and he in this way so completely lost that the espoused it with a crusading zeal and in- evolutionist's conception of education apsistence surprising enough to less ardent pears hardly to go beyond the teaching of minds. In perfect harmony with this physiology and natural history under Darfeature of his character, Professor Hux- winian conditions. Amidst the various ley has been known to express a strong and conflicting notions of liberal educadesire for a scientific hell, to which the tion that are now distracting public attenfinally impenitent, those who persist in tion, there could hardly perhaps be found rejecting the new physical gospel, might a lower depth than this. be condemned. In a lower degree, and in The founder himself shares to a large less noble forms, the same spirit of intoler- extent in this central characteristic of the ance is, however, manifested by all the school; and here we are brought face to more energetic members of the new face with a vital defect in the volume beschool.

fore us -- a defect that goes far to underA final note of sectarianism in the mine its leading principles, and vitiate evolutionists is what may be called their some of its most prominent conclusions. illiterateness, or at least their comparative | It has long been a reproach against Mr. indifference to every culture or cultus Darwin that while he extends the most except their own. This feature is closely ample and flattering recognition to those connected with the last — the spirit of of his own way of thinking, his associates latent intolerance – and may perhaps be and disciples, he rarely refers to even the regarded as one of its special manifesta- highest authorities who happen to differ tions. Just as religious sectaries think from him, and then only in the most indimerely their own thoughts, read none but rect and sparing manner. So long as Mr. their own books, and are exclusively in Darwin confined himself to his own subterested in the activities of their own ject, this procedure, though a sign of parlittle world, so genuine evolutionists ap- tiality, was of comparatively little consepear to have no interest in any subjects quence, his own knowledge being so except natural history and anthropology. complete as to make him virtually indeThey repudiate all inquiries that have no pendent of others. But in “ The Descent direct or perceptible bearing on these of Man," and in the present work, the central objects of pursuit. From this author is immediately concerned not only point of view they stigmatize literature with bodily structure and functions, but and philosophy as vain, if not frivolous, I with mental powers and products. He is dealing so directly with psychological ent authority on the subject, and boldly elements and principles that the force of deny the conclusions of the most eminent his reasoning and the value of his conclu- physiologists of the time. sions must depend altogether on his mas- It is true that in terins Mr. Darwin is tery of the facts and laws of mind. This modest enough with regard to his pretendifficult branch of investigation has been sions. He virtually apologizes for his systematically cultivated by a series of limited knowledge of mental science ; thinkers whose names are as illustrious but the ground of the apology, if worth as any connected with the advancement anything, ought to have been a disqualiof science. As the result of their labours, fication for undertaking such a serious a vast body of elementary facts and illu- task as the evolution of reason and conminating principles have been gradually science from animal elements. Notwithaccumulated, and moulded into scientific standing the modesty of his tone, nothing shape, the different steps of the process can be more presumptuous in spirit and making important stages in the history substance -- more arrogant, indeed, in its of philosophy. But Mr. Darwin shows claims — than Mr. Darwin's argument. no sign of being acquainted with any of it necessarily presupposes a thorough the great thinkers whose researches and knowledge of all psychological activities discoveries constitute eras in the progress and products not only in themselves but of mental science. The only preparation in their mutual relations and complex dehe seems to have thought necessary be-velopment, since the exposition underfore assuming the responsible position of takes to enumerate, explain, and account an independent authority on the subject for them all. Mr. Darwin expressly is of the most elementary and superficial claims to trace the origin, growth, and kind. So far as the evidence goes, Mr. progress of the elements of mind from Darwin's philosophical knowledge is ex- the earliest and most obscure motions of clusively derived from Mr. Herbert Spen- sense up to the highest manifestations of cer and Professor Bain. He appears to intelligence, freedom, and responsibility. have dipped into the system of the one, His very enumeration of these elements and kept at hand for ready reference the is, however, like the furniture in the poor students' manuals produced by the other. apothecary's shop — little more than a Now, these writers — each justly eminent beggarly account of empty boxes.” The in his own way --- notoriously belong to higher faculties, which present the most extreme and one-sided schools. But Mr. serious obstacles to the application of Darwin never seems to have enlarged his his theory, and are indeed fatal to its knowledge of philosophy, to have extend-larger claims, Mr. Darwin omits altoed his reading in any other direction, so gether. He does this avowedly, on the as to be able to correct and modify the ground that hardly any two authors partial statements of his chosen guides. agree in their accounts of these powers, He is never wise above what they have his minute and comprehensive historical written, and seems to have only an im- knowledge of the subject enabling him to perfect acquaintance even with this very indulge in such sweeping assertions. limited section of philosophical literature. The assertion is of course not true; and Yet on the strength of this elementary supposing it were true, it would not reand one-sided knowledge he boldly under- lieve Mr. Darwin from the necessity of takes to discuss and settle the most diffi- discussing such inconvenient questions cult and complex problems of mental sci- as self-consciousness, discourse of reason,

In any other department of inquiry and personal identity. However hardly surely such a procedure would be justly they may press upon his particular considered as in the highest degree rep- theory, these elements of our mental life rehensible. No amount of eminence in exist, and have therefore to be accounted special departments of knowledge entitles for. And for the exponent of the theory a man to speak with authority on a sub- to shrink from the crucial test is a virtual ject he has not seriously studied and admission that it is insufficient for the knows little or nothing about. And Mr. purposes to which it is nominally applied. Darwin's sudden irruption into the do- At the outset, therefore, the facts to be main of mental philosophy is as though explained are only partially considered, a metaphysician who had merely dipped the most important being omitted. And into Oken's “ Elements of Physiophilos- the reasoning based on these facts is ophy” and Carpenter's “ Manual of Hu- weaker and more irrelevant than any. man Physiology" should, in virtue of thing to be found in the whole compass such a smattering, set up as an independ- of Mr. Darwin's writings. It stumbles

ence.

« PreviousContinue »