Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 20.djvu/572

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.
556
THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

method of studying mind excludes the corporeal order. To him mind is an abstraction, mysteriously related to matter, but not coerced by it. Mind, he maintains, is free; matter is enslaved by law. Men accordingly kill themselves because they choose to—because they are free agents and depraved beings. On this view the facts can not be explained, and no science of the subject is possible. But, on the other hand, if we take all the elements of the subject into account, if we regard man in the light of common-sense as a unified being, and all mental effects, whether healthful or morbid, as determined by organic conditions, we are then able to understand why the laws of suicide answer to the laws of external phenomena. We can then see how suicide, though a mental phenomenon, may be due to physical causation. When we consider man as a sensitive organism, so delicately constituted as to be acted upon in a thousand ways by the complex and ever-varying forces of nature, it creates no surprise to find that the averages of self-destruction can be predicted from year to year, and even from month to month, in any country and at any season. If we put the concrete brain in the place of the abstract mind, the subject, though closed to metaphysics, is opened to science. For the brain, the most susceptible part of the organism, is liable to be disturbed and morbidly affected both by physical conditions and passional strains. No man now denies that insanity is a corporeal fact—a derangement of the action of the material organ of feeling and thought. We know that suicide is a marked accompaniment of the cerebral disorder of insanity. So marked, indeed, is it that, even where there is no other evidence, it is often held by coroners' juries that the act of suicide presumes mental derangement. But the morbidities of the brain have an infinite series of gradations. Their obscure initiations take the form of cerebral weakness, debility, exhaustion, accompanied it may be by discouragement, depression, and weariness of life, which may impel to suicide, or go on to confirmed melancholia. When we can sufficiently escape from metaphysical prejudice to regard mind as practically but brain activity, dependent upon healthy nutrition and all that that implies, it will mark an epoch in the progress of the science of human nature.

 

 

A NEW FEATURE.

We last month began a department under the title of "Entertaining Varieties," intended to be a modified form of the feuilletons which have served to increase the popularity and consequently the usefulness of many European periodicals. It will consist of readable miscellaneous fragments of all sorts, but it is not intended to limit it to mere fugitive things, as it may afford a place for continuous papers of a light and entertaining kind.

We are already able to promise something of this sort; and intend very soon to commence the publication of a series of sketches of peculiar interest, entitled

THE MOUNTAINS OF THE MOON;
or,

TRAVELS AND ADVENTURES OF HAKIM BEN SHEYTAN.
translated by f. l. o., with notes by the translator.

Many strange things have latterly come forth from the recesses of Africa, but nothing more remarkable than these curious revelations. The new chronicle may be very apocryphal, but it is sure to be amusing, and will probably prove also instructive. Hakim Ben Sheytan, we are informed, was a Mussulman doctor of Tripoli, who accompanied a military expedition to the interior of Africa, and by some mischance, straying from his party, found himself in a coun-