Page:Folk-lore - A Quarterly Review. Volume 26, 1915.djvu/136

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126 Psychology and Ethnology.

it is self-evident because we believe in it, or that the economic law of supply and demand is to a great extent created by our belief in it, and not our belief created by the law. Who knows but that a race may sometime arise which has shaken off our mechanical conception of the universe and may proceed to invent psychologies of the twentieth century European to explain how he could possibly be so blind to an obvious and infinitely more fruitful theory of matter and mind ? Who knows but that if we could throw overboard our traditional scientific conceptions we could take in vaster conceptions that would embrace mind and matter in one simple system as irresistible as our present mechanics? What we require in studying native customs is more humility, less confidence in the absolute validity of our own systems, and in an intellectual superiority which only seems absolute because, by accident, there is no higher race with which to compare ourselves.

Our physicist does not every time he wants an hypothesis make his mind a blank and start again at the beginning \ he only tries those constructions which are fairly well in harmony with the traditional physics of the time.^ Neither does the South Sea islander exhaust every possible combina- tion of ideas in trying to explain some new phenomenon, but draws his theory from the doctrine of spirits to which he has been bred, and which has always proved so fruitful in explanations of every abnormality.

It is a proof of the incorrigible inconsistency of the White Man, that on the one hand we find it necessary to account for the erroneous beliefs of savages by .endowing them with a peculiar mind, while on the other hand we give assent, or at least appreciation, to the reasonings of those philosophers and eminent men of science who reduce our own physics to a set of convenient assumptions which experience can neither refute nor confirm, and of simple laws which are approximately verified in experiment and can at any time

  • Poincare, Science etHypothese, p. 170.