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ART. VII.- THE WORLD OF MIND BY ISAAC TAYLOR.'
The World of Mind: an Elementary Book. By Isaac Taylor.
London : Jackson and Walford, 1857. The description which Mr. Taylor gives of his own book on its title-page is expressive rather of his aim in producing it than of its actual character and contents. It is not an elementary treatise on psychology, if we are to understand by those terms a popular exposition of the leading principles and general results of that science, so far as they have been yet discovered,-an introduction to its profounder and more systematic study. It is an original disquisition, peculiar in its plan and arrangement. It embraces more than is ordinarily comprised in works on mental science. They for the most part concern themselves only with the philosophy of the human mind; Mr. Taylor takes in the lower animal races also. This inclusion, indeed, is intended to be conveyed in the title of his book, which is somewhat ambiguous. “The World of Mind” may either mean, as it is generally interpreted, the inner universe, which is revealed to every man by self-consciousness, in the sense of the old poet, “My mind to me a kingdom is ;" or it may be taken more objectively, as we use the phrases," mineral kingdom," "vegetable kingdom,” to “
” denote the several orders of being endowed with the qualities in virtue of which these names are bestowed. It is in this second sense that it is used by our author.
The design of his work is thus expressed : “Much of that which is to invite attention in this elementary book will consist of an exhibition—first, of what is common to all orders of living beings; and then a setting forth of what is peculiar to the human mind, and which is the ground of its immeasurable superiority." The subject thus stated affords the materials for a valuable and instructive work; and with such a one Mr. Taylor has pre
But we very much doubt whether the procedure he has adopted is likely to produce a volume fitted to occupy the first “place in a course of elementary reading in mental philosophy. Mr. Taylor seems to have been misled by the analogy of the physical sciences. In physiology, for example, it would be worse than useless to confine ourselves to the study of the frame of man, with its organs and functions, and to exclude from attention the related forms of lower animals. Little could be learned in this way. It may be practicable and convenient here to commence with the study of the laws and conditions of life as they manifest themselves in the lowest zoophyte;
and to trace them up, in their widening range and increasing complexity, to their development in man. The higher and the lower structures mutually give and receive light. And if mind exhibits itself, in different orders of being, in a similarly ascending scale, why should not the same procedure be applicable here? Why should we not have a comparative psychology? The difference, though often overlooked in the interests of theories, is perfectly obvious. External objects are known to us by outward observation and experiment; they can be directly compared and classified. The human body is an organisation as foreign to the examining mind as that of the ape or the tiger. It is not his own body that the anatomist dissects, or the physiologist speculates upon. On the other hand, 110 man has direct knowledge of any other mind than his own. The philosophy of the human mind is, in every case, neither more nor less than the philosophy of the particular mind then speculating. Nothing here can be taken on testimony. The experience and results of others are of no avail to us until they become our own; and we reject or accept them, according as they recommend or fail to recommend themselves to our individual consciousness. Self, as contrasted with what is not oneself,—the facts made known to the mind, “turned inward on its own mysteries," as opposed to those which the senses teach us to apprehend,—are the proper objects of psychology. It is an egotistic science. In its own barbarous language, it deals with “the me;" all that belongs to the “not me” is beyond its range. In proposing, then, to commence the study of it on any lower level than that of the human consciousness, to work a path upwards from the inferior animals to man, Mr. Taylor is ignoring the fundamental distinction on which his science depends, and without which it could not exist. Strongly and even vehemently opposed to all materialising tendencies, jealously guarding the frontier-territory of physiology and psychology against the encroachments and usurpations of the former science, protesting wisely and well against the confusion of theories of organisation and theories of mind, he is yet, by the procedure we have criticised, all the while playing into the hands of the enemy, against whom on other points he does such service.
-“ When we attempt to mark off the world of Mind,” says Mr. Taylor, “ on the side bordering towards the lower orders of life, namely, the vegetative, some ambiguity attaches to many of the instances which present themselves on that margin. But the question which often perplexes the physiologist, when he inquires concerning this or that species whether it should be accounted animal or vegetable, is wholly unimportant in relation to our present subject. We do not concern ourselves with Mind until it comes to manifest itself clearly by its own distinctive characteristics; and these, if we ascend a few
steps only on the scale of animated being, become so strongly marked as to preclude all uncertainty.
Then, as we ascend step by step upon this scale, we find ourselves in the company of beings whose actions and whose modes of adapting themselves to the influences and the accidents of the external world are readily interpretable by means of our own consciousness, and our own modes of action. This criterion, if there were no other, would sufficiently serve the purpose of assigning any particular class of beings to its due place, as belonging to the upper or to the lower orders. It is hy this rule of analogy that we admit any species into the community of mind, or disallow its claims to that distinction.”
If the actions and dispositions of animals are only so far to be understood by us as they “ are readily interpretable by means of our own consciousness," it certainly seems a mistake, an inversion of the proper order, to commence the study of our own consciousness by examination into the habits and dispositions of the lower animals :
Yea, sire, and is it thus ?
This is ignotum per ignotius.” It is to attempt to illustrate the less by the more obscure topic ; "to hold a farthing rushlight” (as yet unkindled) “ to the sun." The science of the human mind must have attained a certain degree of completeness and certainty, before we can use it to explain the more difficult, because to us less accessible, subject of animal intelligence. It is, in fact, the application of a crude and ill-considered human psychology to the explication of the mental phenomena displayed by the lower orders of being that has involved the latter in more than their original obscurity.
Having thus stated our dissent from the conception of mental science which forms the ground-plan of Mr. Taylor's book, we proceed to consider in such detail as our space will admit the main doctrines and general spirit of his volume.
Our author declines any definition of his subject, because “ a definition can be strictly applicable only when the subject to which it relates is thoroughly known to us;" and offers in its place “ a descriptive statement,” which “ must not be regarded as if it were dependent, in any rigid manner, upon the precise words that may be employed to convey it.” Without criticising this somewhat extraordinary condition, or stopping to inquire how far such“ a descriptive statement” is likely “ at least to serve to mark off our proper subject, and to keep it apart from other subjects to which it stands related, and with which it is very liable to be confounded;" or, again, if it does this, in what it differs from a definition properly so called, -we give Mr. Taylor's own exposition :
“ MIND, so far as we are cognisant of it by our individual consciousness, and by our intercourse with those like ourselves, and by observation of the various orders of animated beings around us, although it is conjoined with an animal organisation, is always clearly distinguishable therefrom as the subject of intellectual science. But when we attempt to describe it, we can do so only as if it were one with that animal framework, apart from which we have no direct knowledge of it in any way or in any single instance."
We do not know how to assent to this statement, which seems to us self-contradictory. If mind is "clearly distinguishable” from the animal organisation in thought, it is surely capable of being distinguished from it in words. Our author, however, having made the opposite assumption, goes on with it as follows:
“ MIND, as conjoined with an animal organisation, is that which lives not merely as vegetable structures live, but more than this, for it is related to the outer world by organs of sensation ; it moves and moves from place to place by an impulse originating within itself : and it has also a consciousness more or less distinct of its own existence; that is to say, it possesses, in a greater or less degree, a reflective life, and it is capable of enjoyment and suffering.
THE WORLD OF MIND comprehends all orders of beings that exhibit those conditions of life which we here specify." In a later part of his work, Mr. Taylor endeavours to ascertain what is the “prime characteristic of Mind, and its FIRST RUDIMENT;"* and determines what it is “in its essence,”+its own nature-itself."| We shall have occasion afterwards to remark on this portion of his speculations. We refer to it now only because we are unable to reconcile it with the language of the descriptive statement already quoted, and with Mr. Taylor's apology for the absence of a definition.
His subject is distributed under the three heads of Psychology, Metaphysics, and Logic, of which only the first two are treated of in the volume before us; Psychology, as it appears to us, with much greater success than Metaphysics. A reader whose conception of metaphysical science should be gathered exclusively from Mr. Taylor's book, would scarcely attain a more accurate notion of its real character and object than that it deals with abstractions and leads to scepticism. Mr. Taylor distinguishes it from psychology by the remark, that "the terms space, time, cause, and effect, belong to this department” (metaphysics). But they belong just as much to psychology. It is not in their subject matter, but in their mode of viewing the same subject-matter, that these sciences differ. Let us take, for example, the notions to which Mr. Taylor refers as exclusively metaphysical.
They are facts of consciousness. Like all other phenomena, they can be submitted to the processes, and treated according to the laws, of inductive inquiry. And it is the business of psychology, as the positive science of consciousness, to do this—to find out their contents, to trace their origin and development, to assign them their proper place in the scheme of mind. But though in the mind they refer, as we are constrained to believe, to realities existing without it. Is then this belief trustworthy, this reference real? Are the conceptions which the words space, time, and substance suggest to us mere figments of the understanding; or do they correspond to, and represent, independent existences ? To answer these questions, to bridge over the chasm which separates thoughts from things, the subjective from the objective, is the business of metaphysics.
7 p. 176.
I p. 175.
From these considerations, it is obvious that the proper place of metaphysical science, as dependent on the results of psychology, is posterior to the latter. The goal of the one is the other's starting-point. In treating of it, first, Mr. Taylor sacrifices logical fitness to considerations of convenience. He is evidently anxious to get rid as soon as possible of an uncongenial topic, to hurry past "abysses” into which it is dizziness to look. Metaphysics and “mystification” seem to him one and the same thing. His footing is not sure, nor his eye clear, till he gets fairly to the region of concrete phenomena. We pass over some remarks, which seem to us far from sound, on the relation which physical, mathematical, and metaphysical science bear respectively to the philosophy of mind, as having been already partly answered in anticipation. Metaphysics being defined as the science of “abstractions," the abstractions with which it deals are classified as either “ultimate,” “mixed,” or “concretive.” Under the first
" head, the notions of space, time, and substance, are discussed. We will briefly consider the conception of space; the origin and nature of which are thus set forth. On the presentation of a sphere to the observer, he learns by the sense of touch that it is solid and hard. By the exercise of abstraction, its sensible properties, its colour, taste, and so on,-are one by one dis
missed, till there remain only its solidity and its spherical shape. Its form, last of all, is discarded from thought. All that is now left is a vague notion; which we fail to realise to the mind, but which we seek to hold fast by means of the phrase solid extension. Having got safely thus far, our author proceeds :
“Solid extension, let us say that of the sphere—may be conceived as extending itself further and further, until it fills a planetary orbit, or until it embraces the starry universe ; and it may go even beyond this limit. ... ... At any one stage of its progress, what should forbid its advancing one other stage ; and then why may it not do the like again? This supposition of an endless progress or movement onward,