Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 5.djvu/680

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THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

eral principles why animals must have such and such parts. When an eminent contemporary philosopher, who is far removed from errors of this kind, remembers these abuses of the a priori method, he will be able to make allowance for the jealousy of physicists as to the acceptance of so-called a priori truths. Aristotle's errors of detail were grave and numerous. He affirmed that only in man we had the beating of the heart, that the left side of the body was colder than the right, that men have more teeth than women, and that there is an empty space, not at the front, but at the back of every man's head.

There is one essential quality in physical conceptions which was entirely wanting in those of Aristotle and his followers. I wish it could be expressed by a word untainted by its associations; it signifies a capability of being placed as a coherent picture before the mind. The Germans express the act of picturing by the word vorstellen, and the picture they call a Vorstellung. We have no word in English which comes nearer to our requirements than imagination and, taken with its proper limitations, the word answers very well; but, as just intimated, it is tainted by its associations, and therefore objectionable to some minds. Compare, with reference to this capacity of mental presentation, the case of the Aristotelian, who refers the ascent of water in a pump to Nature's abhorrence of a vacuum, with that of Pascal when he proposed to solve the question of atmospheric pressure by the ascent of the Puy de Dôme. In the one case the terms of the explanation refuse to fall into place as a physical image; in the other the image is distinct, the fall and rise of the barometer being clearly figured as the balancing of two varying and opposing pressures.

During the drought of the middle ages in Christendom, the Arabian intellect, as forcibly shown by Draper, was active. With the intrusion of the Moors into Spain, cleanliness, order, learning, and refinement, took the place of their opposites. When smitten with the disease, the Christian peasant resorted to a shrine; the Moorish one to an instructed physician. The Arabs encouraged translations from the Greek philosophers, but not from the Greek poets. They turned in disgust "from the lewdness of our classical mythology, and denounced as an unpardonable blasphemy all connection between the impure Olympian Jove and the Most High God." Draper traces still further than Whewell the Arab elements in our scientific terms, and points out that the under-garment of ladies retains to this hour its Arab name. He gives examples of what Arabian men of science accomplished, dwelling particularly on Alhazen, who was the first to correct the Platonic notion that rays of light are emitted by the eye. He discovered atmospheric refraction, and points out that we see the sun and moon after they have set. He explains the enlargement of the sun and moon, and the shortening of the vertical diameters of both