Зображення сторінки


Mr. Romanes founds his hypothesis upon Geiger's assertion that "language diminishes the farther we look back in such a way, that we cannot forbear concluding it must once have had no existence at all.” * “Who will venture to doubt it?” Mr. Romanes asks. We reply, we not only doubt it, but we deny it, and say it is demonstrably absurd. All that we should be warranted in concluding from such a fact, if it were a fact, would be that language, at its origin, was in a very undeveloped condition. Suppose a tribe of animals or plants to have been found to have been smaller and smaller in size, by a regular and unvarying degree of diminution, as we proceeded downward through the successive geological strata : who from that would conclude that the earliest members of the group had no dimensions at all? There was, we are quite sure, a time when language was not, but that was the time when man himself was not.

Mr. Romanes continues, “Should so absurd a statement be ventured (as that speechless man might be self-conscious), it would be fatal to the argument of my adversaries ; for the statement would imply, either that concepts may exist without names, or that selfconsciousness may exist without concepts." But that concepts may exist without names is the very essence of our contention. The anecdote of his “talking bird,” is next recurred to, as if there was any parity between the so-called “naming” of dogs by a parrot and the “naming” of bright things “star" by a child. There

* “ Development of the Human Race,” Eng. Trans., p. 22. ť p. 356

is no proof whatever that the bird “names.” The bird may, on seeing a dog, be thereby excited to emit the sound the emission of which it had previously associated with the feelings aroused by the dog's presence. Supposing the bird to have a consentient, unconscious craving * for the sight of the dog, the automatic emission of the sound would then be abundantly accounted for by such past association. It would be an unconscious employment of a means to an end sensuously craved after. The subsequent history, or outcome, in the case of the child, gives us reason to suppose that it really named at first, because it indubitably “names ” afterwards. In the case of the parrot this kind of evidence tells the other way.

Reversing, then, Mr. Romanes's concluding observations, † we say: brief and imperfect as our criticism of Mr. Romanes's position has been, we are honestly unable to see how the testimony of consciousness and observation combined could have been more uniform, multifarious, consistent, complete, and overwhelming, than we have found it to be. In every single case the witness of philology has agreed with the teaching of psychology. The faculty of language being a power living in us, directly and circumstantially narrates to us the necessary conditions of its own origin and evolution. It has told us that even if we suppose there was once a time when men were altogether speechless, and able to communicate with one another only by means of gesticulation and grimace, that yet bodily and facial expression were the expressions of conceptual thought. * See “On Truth," pp. 200, 350.

pp. 357, 359.

Nor if sentence-words could not be understood without the accompaniment of gesture, did such gesture in the least deprive them of their intellectual, conceptual nature. Assuming, for argument's sake, that the grammatical structure of spoken-language was originally the offspring of gesture-signs, its intellectual character is in no way thereby destroyed. Nor was early man, any more than the child of to-day, a bit less truly self-conscious, if he spoke of himself exclusively in what we call the third person. We find in all languages (other than emotional), whether of word or of gesture, just that sensuous accompaniment which reason and observation combine to show us must be present in every external expression of the meanings of an intellectual animal like man, because it must be present beside his internal thought, since we can never think without phantasmata. On the one hand, every act of our intellect needs a sensuous accompaniment, which must have preceded it; while, on the other hand, every perception of, and through our senses, contains what is altogether beyond sense. If, then, it is true in this sense to say, “Nihil in intellectu quod non prius fuerit in sensu,it is no less true to say, Nihil in intellectu quod unquam fuerit in sensu.So also if in one sense we say, with Garnett, “Nihil in oratione quod non prius in sensu," we must none the less also say in another sense, “ Nihil in oratione quod prius in sensu.

The impossibility of the evolution of intellect from speech having been recognized through the recognition of what “thought” really is, we see how only "the Alippant and the ignorant" can deem such agencies as

those allowed by Mr. Romanes, adequate “to produce such a result.” It is true, as Herder says, that no abstract term in any tongue has been attained to without the aid of sensation and of tone, but the abstraction itself no more consists of the mere aids to its production, than the new-born child is identical with the accoucheur or the obstetric forceps which may have brought it into the world. To our mind it is simply inconceivable that any stronger proof of the utter impossibility of mental evolution could be furnished, than is furnished by the one great fact of the structure, the warp and woof, of the thousand dialects of every pattern which are now spread over the surface of the globe. We cannot speak to each other in any tongue without declaring the presence of an intellectual, conceptual element in every vocal term. Such elements are the most essential part of every utterance of speech now, and must therefore have coexisted with the sensuous elements at the origin of speech. We cannot so much as discuss the "origin of human faculty” itself, without announcing in the very medium of our discussion how necessarily distinct that origin has been. It is to Language that Mr. Romanes, following his opponents, has resolved to appeal : by Language he is hopelessly condemned.



'The next section of the subject-to the consideration of which Mr. Romanes addresses himself * in his sixteenth chapter—is what he regards as having been the most probable course of man's actual physical evolution from some non-human animal—a process he calls, “The transition in the race."

Almost at the beginning of the chapter he observes, with much justice, “Any remarks which I have to offer upon this subject must needs be of a wholly speculative or unverifiable character. . . . I will devote the present chapter to a consideration of three alternative—and equally hypothetical — histories of the transition. But, from what I have just said, I hope it will be understood that I attach no argumentative importance to any of these hypotheses."

Such being the case, we might almost dispense ourselves from the task of following him over ground which is thus avowedly not solid enough to really serve the purpose of a happy hunting-ground, or to sustain Mr. Romanes in any struggle with an opponent. We think, nevertheless, that our readers might have some

* p. 360.

« НазадПродовжити »