Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 34.djvu/577

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561
LITERARY NOTICES.

page generous instincts; but lie would oppose the idea that, because an act is altruistic, it must be good and virtuous. All altruism is interference, and interference needs to be justified. As we stated at the outset, people are too much accustomed to think of charity being given out of a surplus that would otherwise not be usefully employed; but that idea tends to disguise the real nature of the question. There is vast need for social reform in the matter of the expenditure of money; and indeed we know of no direction in which a moral crusade is more wanted. If something could be done to check the barbaric extravagance of our wealthy classes and the blamable extravagance of classes that are not wealthy, much good would be done to the whole body of society.




LITERARY NOTICES.

Memory: What it is and how to improve it. By David Kay, F.R.G.S. "International Education Series," Vol. VIII. New York: D. Appleton & Co. Pp. 334. Price, $1.50.

Whatever may be the educational process by which knowledge is gained — observation, reasoning, or passive reception of text-books and lectures — it is retained by the one faculty of memory. This consideration is enough to show the great importance to the educator of a thorough acquaintance with the nature of this faculty and the best means of cultivating it. On the other hand, as Dr. W. T. Harris, the editor of this "Series," points out, the memory, when over-developed, may crowd and cramp the other faculties. It is a familiar statement that much memorizing deadens the power of thought, and it is equally true that the powers of sense-perception, imagination, and will may be paralyzed by the same means. "With an overactive memory we suppose ourselves to sec in an object what we remember to have seen in it before, and any new features escape our superficial perception. This is true, too, in the case of imagination, the power which ought to be productive as well as reproductive." Hence the problem is not the simple one of how to strengthen the memory as much as possible, but how to train it so that it shall have its greatest efficiency and yet not interfere with the action of the other faculties. As to guarding against an overactive memory, Dr. Harris says: "The antidote for this baneful effect of memory is to be sought in a method of training that associates effects with causes, and individuals with species; that associates one idea with another through its essential relations, and not by its accidental properties. One must put thought into the act of memory." Beginning with an examination of the nature of memory, Mr. Kay proceeds to point out the connection between mind and matter in general, and especially the influence which bodily conditions have upon mental action; he next discusses the phenomena of sensation, and then describes the formation of mental images and the unconscious action of the mind. The author is convinced that much light is thrown upon the subject of mnemonics by the facts of physiology. "When one performs a set of movements," he says, "for the first time, he may find considerable difficulty in doing so, owing to the unadaptedness of the parts concerned. These parts, however, retain certain traces of what has taken place in them, so that when the movements come to be performed a second time the difficulty attending them is somewhat less." Frequent repetition increases the ease of performance. Similarly sensations leave their traces on our sense-organs; men observe best what they have frequently observed. Recalling to mind an act or sensation is so much like the original experience that, in the author's opinion, the same parts are concerned in the one as in the other, and the traces made by these experiences have something to do in the act of recollection. This view is supported by the recent theory that, in the words of Prof. Bain, "the organ of the mind is not the brain by itself; it is the brain, nerves, muscles, organs of sense, viscera." Our ideas are remembered in the same way, for "every idea in the mind must have entered it by some sense, and, in order to its full and complete recall, it is believed that it must be again projected or imaged in an organ of sense. Even the most abstract of our ideas are abstracts of sensations belonging to some sense which is also concerned in the recollec-