Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 17.djvu/866

From Wikisource
Jump to: navigation, search
This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.
846
THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

unsafe to deny it. The telephone is but a thing of yesterday, and was at first supposed to be only a curious play-thing. But already "there's millions in it." How far it is developed as a business is shown by the fact that a convention of twenty-one companies meets at Niagara to look after the interests of this new and rapidly extending means of intercommunication.

 


LITERARY NOTICES.

The Brain as an Organ of Mind. By H. Charlton Bastian, M.D., F.R.S. D. Appleton & Co. Pp. 708. Price, $2.50.

Dr. Bastian's new book is one of great value and importance. The knowledge it gives is universal in its claims, and of moment to everybody. It should be forthwith introduced as a manual into all colleges, high schools, and normal schools in the country. Not to be made a matter of ordinary mechanical recitations, but that its subject may arrest attention and rouse interest, and be lodged in the minds of students in connection with observations and experiments that will give reality to the knowledge acquired.

As often illustrated in the pages of this magazine, we know nothing of mind except as an organic manifestation. Throughout the entire scale of animate nature, intelligence is an endowment of a nervous mechanism; and the gradations of intelligence correspond to and depend upon gradations in the structure of the nervous system. The laws of mind have their basis in this material substratum, and mental operations are conditioned upon physiological processes. The wonderful apparatus of sensation, distributed over the periphery of the body and relating the individual to all that is outward, and the still more wonderful organ of consciousness and mental power—the great cerebral center—are material structures, and the psychical effects which they produce are accompaniments of material molecular change. We think, and feel, and remember, and imagine, and carry on all the processes of reasoning through the corporeal activities of the brain as the great center of nervous operations. We are born high or low in the intellectual grade according to the properties of this mechanism; and these properties are variable in an almost infinite degree. We get the benefit of a perfected stock through generations of cultivation, or we inherit incapacity through generations of neglect, the results in both cases being embodied in the nervous organism. It is therefore impossible to get at the science of mind so as to grasp the laws of mental growth, or rationally to carry on the work of mental cultivation without a knowledge of the vital mechanism by which all mind is displayed. No book, therefore, can be fitter for collegiate study or as a guide in the work of education than a well-prepared treatise on the physiological basis of intelligence. There are many valuable publications upon this subject, but we have seen none among them that promises to be so satisfactory as a text-book as Dr. Bastian's work on "The Brain as an Organ of Mind."

We have often discussed this subject, but its great importance, and the disposition to ignore it, nay, the actual dread of it on the part of many well-meaning people, make it necessary that there should be no relaxation in the efforts to diffuse correct ideas concerning it. For thousands of years the mind has been regarded as an entity belonging to an immaterial sphere, in some mysterious way brought into relation with the material order, but still so separated from it, and so far above it, that mental problems must be studied alone, and only by their own peculiar methods. This is the metaphysical point of view which was universally pursued before science arose, and is still the prevailing method of regarding mental phenomena. But it is a partial method, dealing only with one side of the subject, and lacking the foundation that is necessary to give scientific clearness and validity to the study of mind. Modern science has. given a new extension to mental studies, but it has at the same time greatly complicated them, and introduced a factor requiring laborious and progressive elucidation; and the consequence is, that many prefer the older and easier method, regardless of the character of the results. Multitudes also shrink with a kind of horror from