Page:Folk-lore - A Quarterly Review. Volume 26, 1915.djvu/125

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{Read at the Meeting, 20th January, 191 5.)

The ideas of our present generation are so different in many respects from those of our forefathers that we can hardly help believing that our minds also must have radically changed in order to think so differently. But in fact the old ways of thinking are merely being kept in check by accumulated facts and experiments that rise up like walls on the right and left to keep our thought in the straight and narrow path of science, but as soon as a new field of research has been thrown open in which there are no tracks laid out, our thoughts break loose again and range freely and recklessl}- as of old.

Such is the present condition of Ethnology : a play- ground for speculations escaped from the iron discipline of experimental science.

Larger tomes, volumes of facts, admirable industry in their collation, may give us for a moment the illusion that the present day anthropology has vastly outstripped the methods of Hobbes and Locke. But of all these facts, so patiently and conscientiously collected, only an infinitesimal proportion are made use of in drawing conclusions ; only those that square with the theory ; we need never read the rest to understand the argument. The method is still that of Hobbes and Locke: given a custom, our first question is what can have been the intended use of it . Having imagined some use, we postulate the idea of it as the origin