Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 20.djvu/456

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ress of science; for, according to our present views, we do at least come to a point where matter displays new properties under excessively fine division, as in the cases of diffusions, chemical processes, crystallization, and in organisms. It is remarkable that it never occurred to Leibnitz or Locke that it is by no means all the same whether charcoal, sulphur, and saltpeter lying together are in large lumps or ground down in definite proportions to the fineness of gunpowder. The mechanical performance of similar machines never bears a proportionate relation to their size. If matter thus exhibits different modes of action according to the degree of its division, why may it not even think under a still finer division? It will be best to put away the explanations of these philosophers, and rest upon the simple declaration that consciousness can not be explained as the result of any arrangement or motion of the physical atoms of matter.

I have to say, besides, that we can not at present go further with Leibnitz. He concludes, from the incomprehensibility of consciousness from a mechanical basis, that it is not produced through material causes. We are satisfied with recognizing the incomprehensibility, which we may illustrate by saying that it is of a similar character with the impossibility of understanding why the twitching of the trigeminal nerve provokes infernal pains, while the excitation of certain other nerves is pleasant. While Leibnitz rejected consciousness in the soul-monads imparted to the body, and supposed a series of dream-pictures corresponding with the events of the body to pass along in it under God's direction, we are accumulating the proofs that consciousness is bound to material antecedents.

I name—not with full conviction—as the sixth difficulty, intelligent thought and the origin of language. An immense gap indeed exists between an amoeba and a man—between a new-born child and a man; but it may be filled to a certain extent by transitions. The theory of knowledge apparently requires only memory and the power of generalization to make the way from simple sensation to the higher degrees of mental activity. Great as is the leap still to be taken between the faculties of the highest animal and those of the lowest man, the difference between them, consciousness being once given, is of quite another kind from that which opposes the mechanical explanation of consciousness. The latter problem and the former one are incommensurable. Therefore, to use Strauss's notation again, if problem B is solved, problem C does not seem to me to be transcendent. Problem C, however, is closely connected with another problem, the seventh and last one in our series—the question of the freedom of the will.

It is natural that all the problems enumerated here should have busied mankind as long as it has thought. The constitution of matter, the origin of life and language, have been subjects of disquisition among all civilized peoples at all times. Yet only a few minds have advanced to these questions, and the report of the discussions of them