Billeder på siden
PDF
ePub

This manner of interpreting the phenomena of the mind, continues Mr. Mill, has been often stigmatized as materialist. In order to see what justice there is in the accusation, we have only to remember that the idealism of Berkeley is one of the developments of this theory. If there be materialism in endeavouring to determine the material conditions of our mental operations, all somewhat comprehensive theories of the mind may, in that case, be taxed with materialism. We shall probably never know whether organization alone can produce thought and life; but we know, beyond doubt, that the mind employs a material organ. Now, this admitted, what materialism is there in following out the physiological explanations so far as they can lead us?

It is certainly true that associative-psychology represents several of the superior mental conditions as being in a certain sense the development of inferior mental conditions. But in other similar cases, as the author acutely remarks, the wisdom and the marvellous art of nature which draws the better from the worse, and good from evil, have been magnified. Besides, if those, the most noble portions of our nature, are not original, they are not therefore factitious and non-natural. The products are as much a part of human nature as the elements which compose it. Water is as much a substance of the external world as hydrogen and oxygen. It is only for vulgar minds that a great and beautiful object loses its charm in losing something of its mysteriousness, in unveiling a portion of the secret process by which nature has engendered it.'1

Mr. Stuart Mill requires us to be exacting with respect to explanations founded on association: we must not limit ourselves to semblances of analysis. Now nothing is more useful in getting at the bottom and into the intimate essence of complex facts, than the examination of exceptions and rare cases. Children, young animals, persons deprived of certain senses, those who, born blind, have recovered their sight, persons who have grown up in solitude like Caspar Hauser, furnish numerous sources of information, which are unhappily but rarely used.

In short, two kinds of investigations are equally necessary for

1 Loc. cit. p. III.

2 Mémoires des l'Académie des Sciences Morales, tom. i. 1833.

the study of the phenomena of mind, and for that of material phenomena; the first, of which Newton's generalization is the type, applies itself, not to successions of phenomena, but to complex phenomena themselves, and resolves them into simple elements, just as chemistry resolves compound bodies. The first analyses laws into simpler laws, the second analyses subtances into simpler substances.1

III.

After having determined the object and the method of psychology, we have to seek whether there be not an Art to which this science may serve as a basis,—whether there be not some derived science applicable to practical life, which supposes, as primary science, a general knowledge of the phenomena of the mind. Every science, as soon as it is firmly constituted, comes naturally out of pure theory, and leads to practical consequences, whether they be sought for, or only found. And, in our opinion, there is no greater proof of the long lingering of psychology in its infancy, than the striking fact that no application, no useful art, has proceeded from it. Thus it was for centuries with physics and chemistry, thus with the biological sciences, whose results are even yet but dimly foreseen; nevertheless who can fail to understand that if the fundamental laws of the mind were discovered, if the circumstances which modify them were known, if, in a word, we knew the essential and the accidental, as in the case of the tides, already quoted by Mr. Mill, if we could reconstitute a psychological situation by synthesis, as we can calculate an astronomical position, if we were capable of foreseeing,—an important secret would be made known to men, available for their aid in education, politics, all the moral and social sciences, and that psychology would be the basis of those sciences, even as physics is the basis of the sciences of matter.

The possibility of this art, or, if we prefer so to style it, this derivative science, founded upon psychology, is entertained by only a few minds.2 We shall see that Mr. Mill defines its nature

1 Stuart Mill, Preface to James Mill's Analysis, p. 6.

2 Mr. Bain has published a volume On the Study of Character, including an estimate of phrenology.

and its method. Let us say at once that he designates it Ethology, or the science of character, and that he assigns to it, as a process of investigation, the deductive method with verification.1 The object of psychology is the general laws of human nature, the object of ethology is the derivative laws. Psychology occupies itself with genus, ethology with species and varieties.

We employ the name psychology for the science of the elementary laws of mind; ethology will serve for the ulterior science which determines the kind of character produced, in conformity to those general laws, by any set of circumstances, physical and moral. According to this definition, ethology is the science which corresponds to the art of education, in the widest sense of the term, including the formation of national or collective character, as well as individual. . . . Ethology may be called the exact science of human nature.' 2

But it is only exact in the affirmation of tendencies, not of facts. It declares, not that such a thing will always happen, but that the effect of a given cause will be such, so long as that cause shall operate without interruption; for instance: it is a scientific proposition that muscular strength tends to make men courageous, but not that it always does make them so; that experience tends to produce wisdom, but not that it always does produce it.

While psychology is entirely or principally a science of observation and experimentation, ethology is an entirely deductive science. The relation of ethology to psychology is analogous to that of the different branches of physics to mechanics. The principles of ethology are, properly speaking, the axiomata media of the science of the mind. These principles are distinct, on the one hand, from empirical laws resulting from simple observation, on the other, from lofty generalizations. As Bacon has boldly pointed out, the axiomata media of any science constitute the principal value of that science. Inferior generalizations, so long as they have not been explained and reduced to the axiomata media, whose consequences they are, possess only the precarious value of empirical laws; and the most general laws are too general to explain individual cases.

1 Logic, bk. vi. ch. v.

2 Ibid. vol. ii. pp. 445-6, 4th ed.

Mr. Stuart Mill shows very clearly that the deductive method, with verification, is the only one applicable to ethology. Natural laws, he says, can only be determined in two ways: by deduction or by experience. Are the laws of formation of character approachable by the experimental method? Evidently not. In fact, this method has two principal processes, experimentation and observation.

1. Is experimentation possible? It might be for an oriental despot, but even if he ventured to attempt it, how much advance would be made? It would be necessary to rear, from infancy to maturity, a number of human beings, to note each sensation or impression experienced by the subject, or to note the causes and what he thinks of them. A single apparently insignificant circumstance which might be neglected would suffice to vitiate the experiment.

2. Is observation possible? If it be not possible to know influential circumstances with entire certainty when we arrange them ourselves, à fortiori we cannot know them in cases beyond our control. We can only make observations wholesale and in the lump, that is to say, we can only aim at a purely approximative generalization. There remains, then, the deductive method, which starts from laws.

In other words, mankind have not one universal character, but there exist universal laws for the formation of character. And since it is by these laws, combined with the facts of each particular case, that the whole of the phenomena of human action and feeling are produced, it is on these that every rational attempt to construct the science of human nature in the concrete, and for practical purposes, must proceed.1

Ethology is still to be created. But its creation has at length become practicable; . . . though little has yet been done, and that little not at all systematically, towards forming it.2

The progress of this important science will depend on the employment of a double process :—

1. Given a certain particular circumstance, to deduct theoretically from it the ethological consequences, and to compare them with that which our common experience teaches us.

1 Logic, vol. ii. p. 440, 4th edit.

• Ibid. p. 450.

2. To perform the inverse operation, that is to say, to study the different types of human nature, to analyse them, to note the circumstances in which these types predominate, and to explain the characteristic features of the type by the peculiarities of the circumstances.

It is hardly necessary, says Mr. Mill in conclusion, to repeat that in ethology, as well as in every other inductive science, verification à posteriori ought to go pari passu with deduction à priori, the conclusions of the theory deserving no confidence except so far as they are confirmed by experience. The agreement between these two kinds of proofs is the sole sufficient basis of the principles of a science thus noted in facts, and relative to phenomena so complex and so concrete as those of ethology.

Thus a general, abstract science, founded on observation and experience, having for its object the fundamental phenomena of the human mind, and a special science, having for its object varieties of character, such is the almost inexhaustible and almost entirely novel task which Mr. Mill has assigned to future psychology.

CHAPTER II.

PSYCHOLOGY.

Psychology.-1. Consciousness-2. Exterior perception-3. Association of ideas-4. Causality-5. Necessary truths-6. Reasoning-7. Will.

I.

WE comprise under the following titles, Conscience, Perception, Association, Idea of Cause, Necessary Truths, Reasoning, Will, the principal psychological studies of Mr. John Stuart Mill.

'If the word spirit means anything, it signifies that which feels.' The phenomena which manifest it are sensations, ideas, emotions, and volitions.1 Consciousness is an intuitive knowledge which constitutes the foundation of our mental conditions, which exist only in consciousness and by consciousness; to have an idea, to have a sensation, is in reality to have the consciousness of an

1 Logic, book vi. ch. iv.

« ForrigeFortsæt »