Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 20.djvu/333

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WHAT IS TRANSCENDENTAL PHYSICS?

cile the invariableness of an object with the variableness of its appearance at different distances, when, presto, forth from the battery of the "causal principle" streams a third dimension, to smooth away the contradiction, and solve the problem; although how, meanwhile, the two-dimensional little one contrives to crawl over the house-dog, or to keep its own body in its own sight when lifted out of the cradle, or to "contemplate its hand," and go through with "repeated groping about and touching," without stumbling on the third dimension, is a puzzle that must tax the resources even of transcendental physics. To them I leave it.

Professor Zöllner's theory, it goes without saying, is important, if true; for, if one contradiction may determine a new dimension of space, another contradiction, by the same token, may determine another new property, and so on, till everything shall be made plain, and we "be as gods." The theory, as will be observed, is propounded in its seminal form; but its capabilities of explanation are restricted only by the number of possible contradictions inexplicable without it, so that, if capable of solving a single problem insoluble in any other way, it is capable of solving every insoluble problem—is a philosophical menstruum, a logical catholicon, a key to all the mysteries that mind is heir to. It is this, or nothing; but this, alas! is quackery. Yet Professor Zöllner is no quack. He is a trained scientist, enthusiastic without doubt, but equally without doubt sincere. What, then, is at fault? To be sure, he is a man with a theory, and that means a good deal; but it does not cover the whole ground. He, above all, is a man with an impossible fact. By this he has fallen. Theorizing to explain a fact is hazardous enough, and theorizing to prove a fact more hazardous still, but the man who theorizes to prove a fact beyond the bounds of human knowledge is lost; and this is the predicament of our worthy professor. Through his zealous efforts to prove a fourth dimension he has got psychology at sixes and sevens. In framing his theory of space, he unconsciously has made hash of Kant's theory, as in expounding it he has unconsciously perverted Berkeley's theory of vision; his theory, accordingly, is itself a hash. In other words, Professor Zöllner, having mutilated Kant, and hacked the fragments, has mixed up with the remains a sprinkling of Berkeley (after vitiating it), and taken the resulting hodge-podge as his theory of space, which, like the honey in Samson's riddle, comes out of the carcass of the lion he has rent, though in his case, unhappily, the bees have swarmed from his own bonnet. It would be superfluous to characterize seriously his account of the origin of our idea of space. It is enough to say that the account has no warrant in the teachings of Kant, or of any other metaphysician, from Zeno to Spencer. It is not Kantian in the least, but purely Zöllnerian; and, as John Wilkes acknowledged that he was never much of a Wilkesite, so Professor Zöllner, if he some day becomes as well versed in psychology as he is in physics, will be tempted