Зображення сторінки
PDF
ePub

perience abundantly refutes the notion that speech, whether as uttered or understood, is thus antecedently

intellectual language could have existed without reason is absurd. Reason, then, must, for however short a period, have preceded language.

“In conclusion, I desire to point out a certain misrepresentation with respect to natural selection. The Professor says, “In the evolution of the mind, as well as in that of Nature, natural selection is rational selection ; or, in reality, the triumph of reason, the triumph of what is reasonable and right ; or, as people now say, of what is fittest.' But we may ask in passing, if reason has no existence, how can it ‘triumph?' The misrepresentation of natural selection, however, lies in his use of the word 'fittest.' When biologists say that the 'fittest' survives, they do not mean to say that that survives which is the most reasonable and right,' but that that survives which is able to survive. What there is less 'reasonable and right' in a Rhytina than in a Dugong, or in a Dinornis than an Apteryx, would, I think, puzzle most of our zoologists to determine ; nor is it easy to see a triumph of reason in the extermination of the unique flora of St. Helena by the introduction of goats and rabbits.

“ST. GEORGE MIVART.”

[Nature, March 1, 1888.]

LANGUAGE = REASON. “ PROF. ST. GEORGE MIVART has read my letter on 'Language = Reason’ in Nature of February 2 (p. 393) with very great care, and I feel grateful to him for several suggestive remarks. But has he read the heavy volume to which that letter refers-my "Science of Thought'? I doubt it, and have of course no right to expect it, for I know but too well myself how difficult it is for a man who writes books to read any but the most necessary books. I only mention it as an excuse for what might otherwise seem conceited-namely, my answering most of his questions and criticisms by references to my own book.

“Prof. Mivart begins by asking why I should have explained reasoning by reckoning.

“Now, first of all, from an historical point of view—and this to a man who considers evolution far more firmly established in language than in any other realm of Nature is always the most important-the Latin ratio, from which came raison and our own

necessary. This will appear later on * from the case of Laura Bridgman and the still more remarkable one of

reason, meant originally reckoning, casting up, calculation, computation, long before it came to mean the so-called faculty of the mind which forms the basis of computation and calculation, judgment, understanding, and reason.

“Secondly, I began my book on the ‘Science of Thought' with a quotation from Hobbes, that all our thinking consisted in addition and subtraction, and I claimed the liberty to use the word 'thinking' throughout my own book in the sense of combining. Such a definition of thinking may be right or wrong, but, provided a word is always used in the sense in which from the beginning it has been defined, there can at all events be no misapprehension nor just cause of complaint on the part of the critic.

“What I meant by combination, or by addition and subtraction being the true character of thinking, I explained very fully. * Any book on logic,' I said, 'will teach that all our propositions are either affirmative or negative, and that in acquiring or communicating knowledge we can do no more than to say that A is B, or A is not B. Now, in saying A is B, we simply add A to the sum already comprehended under B, and in saying A is not B, we subtract A from the sum that can be comprehended under B. And why should it be considered as lowering our high status, if what we call thinking turns out to be no more than adding or subtracting ? Mathematics in the end consist of nothing but addition and subtraction, and think of the wonderful achievements of a Newton or a Gauss-achievements before which ordinary mortals like myself stand simply aghast.'

“Prof. Mivart holds that there are but two forms of intellectual activity : (1) Acts of intuition, by which we directly apprehend certain truths, such as, e.g., our own activity, or that A is A; and (2) Acts of inference, by which we indirectly apprehend others, with the aid of the idea 'therefore.'

“There is a wide difference between our apprehending our own activity and our apprehending that A is A. Apprehending our own activity is inevitable, apprehending that A is A is voluntary. Besides, the 'therefore' on which Prof. Mivart insists as a distinguishing feature between the two forms of thought is present in the simplest acts of cognition. In order to think and to say,

* See below, chapter iii.

Martha Obrecht. He also says, “ It is only by means of marking ideas by names that the faculty of conceptual

'This is an orange,' I must implicitly think and say, “This is round, and yellow, has a peculiar skin, a sweet juice, etc.; therefore it is an orange.' The 'therefore represents, in fact, the justification of our act of addition. We have by slow and repeated addition formed the concept-name, 'orange,'and by saying, “This is an orange,' we say no more than that we feel justified, till the contrary is proved, in adding this object before us to the sum of oranges already known to us. If the contrary is proved, we subtract, and we add our present object either to the class and name of lemons, citrons, etc., or to a more general class, such as apples, fruit, round objects, etc. We ought really to distinguish, as I have tried to show, not only two, but four phases in every act of cognition, viz. sensation, perception, conception, and naming ; and I contend that these four phases, though distinguishable, are not separable, and that no act of cognition is perfect without the last phase of naming.

“But how is it, Prof. Mivart continues, that different words in our language have one meaning, and different meanings one word ? Does not this show that thought and language cannot be identical?

“ It has been the principal object of all my mythological studies to account not only for the origin of polyonymy and homonymy, but to discover in them the cause of much that has to be called mythology, whether in ancient tradition, religion, philosophy, or even in modern science. I must therefore refer Prof. Mivart to my earlier writings, and can only mention here a few well-known cases of mythology arising from polyonymy and homonymy.

“We can easily understand why people should have called the planet Venus both the morning and the evening star ; but we know that in consequence of these two names many people have believed in two stars instead of one. The same mountain in Switzerland is called by the people on the south side Blackhorn, by the people on the north side Whitehorn, and many a traveller has been misled when asking his way to the one or the other. Because in German there are two words, Verstand and Vernunft, originally meaning exactly the same thing, German metaphysicians have changed them into two distinct faculties, and English philosophers have tried to introduce the same distinction between the understanding as the lower and reason as the higher faculty.

“Nothing is really easier to understand, if only we consult the thought is rendered possible.” But a manual sign for a horse is no more a picture of a horse than is the written

ancient annals of language, than why the same object should have had several names, and why several objects should have had the same name. But this proves by no means that therefore the name is one thing and the concept another. We can distinguish name and concept as we distinguish between the concave and convex sides of a lens, but we cannot separate them, and in that sense we may call them inseparable, and, in one sense, identical.

“Lastly, Prof. Mivart starts the same objection to my system of psychological analysis which was raised some time ago in these columns with so much learning and eloquence by Mr. Francis Galton. He appeals to his own experience, and maintains that certain intellectual processes take place without language. This is generally supposed to put an end to any further argument, and we are even told that it is a mistake to imagine that all men are alike, so far as their psychological processes are concerned, and that psychologists should study the peculiarities of individuals rather than the general character of the human intellect. Now, it seems to me that l'un n'empêche pas l'autre, but that in the end the object of all scientific inquiry is the general, and not the individual. The true life of language is in the dialects, yet the grammarian aims at a general grammar. In the same way the psychologist may pay any amount of attention to mere individual peculiarities and idiosyncrasies ; only he ought never to forget that in the end man is man.

“But it does not even seem to me that intellectual processes without language, as described by Mr. Galton and Prof. Mivart, are at all peculiar and exceptional. I have described similar cases, and tried to account for them, in different parts of my book. If Prof. Mivart says that 'a slight movement of a finger may give expression to a meaning which could only be thought in words by a much slower process,' I went much further by saying that silence might be more eloquent than words.'

“Mr. Galton asked me to read a book by Alfred Binet, “La Psychologie du Raisonnement,' as showing by experiments how many intellectual acts could take place without language. I read the book with deep interest, but great was my surprise when I found that M. Binet's observations confirmed in the very strongest way my own position. I had shown how percepts—that is, images -could exist with a mere shadow of language, and that nothing

or spoken word "horse.” It is an intellectual sign, the efficiency of which proves the radical independence of

was more wonderful than what Leibnitz called the algebra of thought. Now, what do M. Binet's experiments prove? That there are two kinds of images, the consecutive, reproduced spontaneously and suddenly, and the memorial, connected with an association of ideas. The consecutive image, a kind of impression avant la lettre, may reappear long after the existing sensation has ceased to act, and it reappears without any rhyme or reason. But how are the memorial images recalled, seen by people, such as M. Binet describes, in a state of hypnotism? Entirely by the word. Show a hypnotized patient her portrait, and she may or may not recognize it. But tell her, in so many words, 'This is your portrait,' and she will see her likeness in a landscape of the Pyrenees (pp. 56-57). M. Binet is fully aware of what is implied by this. Thus, on p. 58, he writes, L'hallucination hypnotique est formée d'un image suggérée par la parole.' So, again, when describing the simplest acts of perception, M. Binet explains how much is added by ourselves to the mere impressions received through the senses by' ce qu'on croit voir,' by ' ce qu'on croit sentir,' and by 'le nom qu'on croit entendre prononcer.' The facts and experiments, therefore, contained in M. Binet's charming volume seem to me entirely on my side, nor do I see that thoughtful observer has ever denied the necessity of language or signs of some sort for the purpose of reasoning, nay, even of imagination.

. “I find it difficult to answer all the questions which the Professor has asked, because it would seem like writing my own book over again. However, I shall confess that I have laid myself open to some just criticism in not renouncing altogether the metaphorical poetry of language. I ought not to have spoken of Truth as a kind of personal being, nor of Reason as a power that governs the universe. But no astronomer is blamed when he uses the old terminology of sunrise and sunset ; no biologist is misunderstood when he speaks of mankind ; and no philosopher is denounced when he continues to use the big I instead of succession of states of consciousness. If, therefore, I said that I recognized in evolution the triumph of reason, I meant no more than that I could not recognize in it the triumph of mere chance. Prof. Mivart imagines that I misunderstood what the biologist means by the survival of the fittest. Far from it, I understand that phrase, and decidedly reject it. For, either the survival of the fittest means no more than

« НазадПродовжити »