« НазадПродовжити »
whence, by the help of the “beggarly elements” supplied by the senses, the loftiest concepts spring forth, Minerva-like, armed with the sharp spear of intellectual perception and swathed in the ample mantle of signs, woven of the warp of matter and the woof of thought.
It is this power of metaphor-making which most plainly displays to us the intellect actually at work, evolving ever new external expressions for freshly arising internal perceptions. Metaphor belongs to man alone. It is the especial privilege and sign of his nature. Not the highest brute—no elephant, no chimpanzee-could ever evolve a metaphor.
That a higher meaning must be latent in terms which Mr. Romanes would regard as exclusively sensuous, is made especially evident by ethical propositions. He tells us that such propositions are made up of terms no one of which is itself ethical. We would ask him then : What do you understand by an ethical proposition itself when fully evolved ? Do you deny that you can understand by it any ethical conception at all? If so, you deny that there is any distinction between right and wrong, and if you deny that you have any such perception now, no wonder you deny that early man had any perception of the kind. If, on the other hand, you affirm that you can understand such a fully evolved ethical proposition, whence did its meaning come? It must have been put into it by some irrational agency or by man himself. If the former, then we have a positive deification of unreason. If the latter, then clearly man must be different in nature and essence from any and every brute whatever.
Mr. Romanes concludes this chapter by some observations concerning the real or supposed deficiency of language-structure amongst savages. In a note he tries to meet * the assertions of such writers as “Du Ponceau, Charlevoix, James, Appleyard, Threlkeld, Caldwell, etc., who have sought to represent that the languages of even the lowest savages are 'highly systematic and truly philosophical,' ” as follows: He tells us that their opinion “rests on a radically false estimate of the criteria of system and philosophy in a language. For the criteria chosen are exuberance of synonyms, intricacies or complications of forms, etc., which are really works of a low development."
However this may be, such languages are lofty indeed compared with any signs which are made by even the highest animals. The tales we read about the mental defects of savages are hardly, if at all, more trustworthy than anecdotes about the psychical powers of animals. Love of the marvellous, credulity, exaggeration, and, above all, hasty and inconclusive inferences, abound in both—as Mr. Tylor has shown us again and again.
Mr. Romanes tells us, + as one example, that "the Society Islanders have separate words for dog's-tail, bird's-tail, sheep's-tail, etc., but no word for tail itselfi.e., tail in general.” This is no great loss. We have one, and ours is wrong and hopelessly misleading. $ To use the same term, as we do, for what we call the “tails ” of a peacock, a monkey, and a lobster, is to be
† p. 350. I See our lecture on “Tails,” reported in Nature of Sept. 25 and Oct. 2, 1879.
* p. 349.
in far worse plight than a Society Islander thus seems to be. As to the Tasmanians, he tells us,* on the authority of a vocabulary, that they had no word for tree, hard, soft, warm, cold, long, short, and round. We do not believe the vocabulary, and regard its representation as being as absurd and incredible one way as the tales about the rational cockatoo and the pious bees on the other. Does Mr. Romanes really mean that no one Tasmanian could make another understand that anything was hot or cold, or that a weapon was too short or too long? We are persuaded he does not mean this ; but if he does not, then he does not really mean to deny that Tasmanians could explain themselves " by equivalent expressions” as to such matters.
Dr. Latham is quoted as telling us, “that a Kurd of the Zara tribe, who presented Dr. Sandwith with a list of native words, was not 'able to conceive a hand or father except so far as they were related to himself or something else.'” Now, it is very likely that we have here some misunderstanding on the part either of Dr. Latham, Dr. Sandwith, or the Kurd. It is simply incredible that the Kurd could not think of a hand (or a father), not his, nor that of Dr. Sandwith, nor that of some other given man. It is, however, very likely that the Kurd understood his questioner as asking him whether he could conceive of a father or a hand not related to him or any one else? The natural and proper reply to that would be that he could not, nor could either Dr. Latham, Dr. Sandwith, or Mr. Romanes, unless it was a merely ideal hand or father. As to any
* p. 352
further questions about savages, we are content to refer our readers to what we have elsewhere * written on the subject.
Mr. Romanes seems to imagine † that a Tasmanian, having had no word for "tree,” could only have been surprised at seeing a tree“ standing inverted with its roots in the air and its branches in the ground, in just the same way a dog is surprised when it first sees a man walking on his hands: the dog," he tells us, “will bark at such an object because it conflicts with the generic image which has been automatically formed by numberless perceptions of individual men walking on their feet. But, in the absence of any name for trees in general, there is nothing to show that the savage has a concept answering to 'tree,' any more than that the dog has a concept answering to ‘man.'” This is, indeed, a surprising assertion, since Mr. Romanes allows that even the Tasmanians must have had many concepts since they had true language ; but to no dog would he concede the possession of any concept at all. Surely, then, a being whose mind was stored with many concepts, must be allowed to have been affected by a sight of an inverted tree, in a very different way from that in which a dog is affected by the sight of an inverted man!
One of the most wonderful sentences in Mr. Romanes's book, however, is that which comes next. He says, † “Indeed, unless my opponents vacate the basis of Nominalism [!] on which their opposition is founded, they must acknowledge that in the absence of
* See “On Truth,” chap. xix. 1 p. 353. lbid.
any name for tree there can be no conception of tree." But his opponents, as he ought to know, are most ardent opponents of Nominalism, which they regard as a most unreasonable philosophy.
Finally, we must traverse the conclusions with which Mr. Romanes ends this chapter, because, as we have more than once observed, the need of adding bodily and facial expression to voice, in no way destroys the conceptual character of language, while “sentence-words” are so far from being non-conceptual that, as we have said, an ideally perfect language would consist of nothing but monosyllabic sentencewords. Neither can we regard names, due to onomatopoeia, as less truly conceptual than any of the terms which Mr. Romanes has freshly coined for this work, nor need metaphorical expressions, derived from such onomatopoetic terms, be less truly conceptual than metaphoric expression derived from other sources. We have also pointed out how the placing two terms in apposition, as in saying A B, may truly constitute an essential predication, and involve the presence of self-conscious intellect, as truly as saying A is B.
Mr. Romanes asks, * “ Will it be maintained that the man-like being who was then [i.e., before spoken language was used] unable to communicate with his fellows by means of any words at all was gifted with self-consciousness ?” To which we reply, supposing man did primitively exist in such a condition (which we regard as a mere groundless speculation), he certainly was “gifted with self-consciousness."
* p. 356.