Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 86.djvu/613

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THE STUDY OF CHARACTER

the physiologists and chemists discovered in the laboratory of the body—such as distillation and absorption, or fermentation and evaporation, along with the older conception of animal spirits (the latter term used confusedly at once in a psychological and a chemical sense; hence “spirits” of ammonia, turpentine, etc.) were in turn called upon to account for the transformations responsible for the elementary mental processes.

There is nothing notably distinctive in the successive formulations of “nervous” function from the days of Harvey, who gave the directive impetus to physiological conceptions, to those of Haller, who first applied them with marked success to develop the conception of nervous responsiveness (irritability) through specific adaptation of the organism to the stimulus. Haller was not free from the speculative vagaries of his predecessors; yet he thought of the problem of the physiological basis of mental processes consistently and clearly. His contributions so decidedly advanced the conception of nervous function that it was relatively easy to make the transition to the true interpretation given first by a group of physiologists in the early nineteenth century (Marshall Hall, Charles Bell, Majendi) and culminating in the actual measurement of the rate of nervous impulse by Helmholtz in 1850. The position of Haller is notable not only for the general correctness of his conclusions and the experimental evidence upon which they were based, but equally because he separated so clearly what was conjectural from what was established. In a number of cases the task of his successors was merely to follow his lead and transform conjecture into proof.[1]

  1. An admirable statement of the development of knowledge of the nervous system is found in Sir Michael Foster’s “Lectures on the History of Physiology” (1901), Chapter X. G. Stanley Hall’s “History of Reflex Action” (American Journal of Psychology, January, 1896) should also be consulted. Andrew D. White’s “History of the Warfare of Science and Theology” (1896) provides an illuminating commentary upon the movement of thought through which the present subject reached its modern stage. Of the histories of psychology that of Dessoir (1912) contains the most distinctive appreciation of the “character and temperament” movement. Of the more recent studies the most noteworthy are: A. Levy, “Psychologie du Caractère” (1896); Malapert, “Temperament et Caractère” (1902), “Les elements du Caraetère” (1906); Alfred Fouillé, “Temperament et Caractère, etc.”; Paulhan, “Les Caraetères” (1894); Th. Ribery, “ Essai de Classification Naturel des Caractères” (1902); L. Klages, “Prinzipien der Characterologie” (1911); Sternberg, “Characterologie als Wissenschaft” (1907); C. J. Whitby, “The Logic of Human Character.” These works are by no means of comparable value, scope or treatment; nor does any one of them interpret accurately the message of modern psychology upon the subject. The literature bearing upon the training of character is large, but not pertinent to the present survey. Of books of other purpose with important bearing upon the subject may be mentioned MacDougall, “Social Psychology” (1908) and Wallas, “The Great Society” (1914). A peculiarly notable volume is A. F. Shand, “The Foundations of Character” (1914). No reference is made in the retrospective view or in the recent literature to the several modern attempts to develop “readings of character” from signs and systems of appearance or expression. The best-known of these is palmistry and graphology. That handwriting has a modest place as an expression of the neuro-muscular function is an admission that in no sense qualifies it to serve as an index to “Character.” That a few students of handwriting have appreciated the physiological and psychological aspects of their findings is to be recorded.