Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 79.djvu/130

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126
THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY

FEELING IN THE INTERPRETATION OF NATURE
By Professor WM. E. RITTER
MARINE BIOLOGICAL STATION, LA JOLLA, CAL.

HUMAN beings, in common with all others, are as fundamentally esthetic and emotional as they are cognitive and rational. This conclusion I believe to be warranted not only by the facts presented by adult man in civilized society, but also by those observable in very early, simple stages of life everywhere. We do not say that an amœba knows the sensation it has when it comes in contact with a food-particle; nor that a babe knows the sensation that gives rise to the sucking reflex when first its lips touch the nipple or a finger tip. Yet both amœba and babe convert, or elaborate, the raw fact of contact into a set of activities that meets the needs of its existence. Each makes its contacts serve its own larger ends as surely as does the adult man; and no knowledge is worth anything if it does not do that.

So we have to recognize that the esthetic, the merely responsive aspect of our natures, and the psychically elaborative, the recognitive aspect, send their roots down to the very deepest layer of organic constitution; that the two come side by side from a common matrix of organization. Neither can be proved to have arisen earlier than the other, nor can either be shown to be derived from the other. This fundamental parity between intellect and feeling has vast significance for human welfare. Every philosophic system, every educational theory, every religious interpretation of life, which fails to recognize it is sure to be by so much inadequate.

One phase of this inadequacy is subjectivism in its many forms. Whether as idealism, vouched for in our day by Oxford and Harvard, and dressed out in great learning and brilliant dialectic as the "Absolute Good"; or as occultism, vouched for by Mahatmas and the "Mother Church, Scientist," and somewhat scorned by the more scholarly, the same error runs throughout. The former ignore all of man except that part of him which makes syllogisms; the latter goes to the opposite extreme and stifles the legitimate demands of the intelligence for clear and rational thinking. Both fail to recognize that we know-and-feel, all in one breath, whenever we respond in an unsophisticated, natural manner to contacts with men and things.

One of the places in which the intellectualist form of subjectivism has got in its stultifying work most disastrously, is in the education of children. In spite of spasmodic efforts at reform, the factors of spon-