Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 20.djvu/636

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that in this case, also, we are thrown back upon subjective impressions, or, in other words, upon mental experiences; but these experiences have at once a certain breadth and a certain intimacy about them, which leads us in general to give them the preference, and to make what seems to be the source of them our very type of reality, to which we apply the special name of matter.

Considering the subject further, we perceive that sight and hearing are, strictly speaking, specialized forms of the sense of touch—forms so specialized that their fundamental similarity to touch is commonly lost sight of. There is, therefore, no good reason for treating their revelations as less founded on reality than those which we owe to muscular sensation; yet, for all that, matter, to the popular mind, will always be something which directly appeals to the sense of touch.

We may now begin to see what materialism is. Materialism is a form of belief, or mode of thought, which in all things prefers to rest on the evidence of the broadest impressions of physical sense, and which suspects, where it does not deny, the reality of aught that can not be brought to the test of sense-impression. It objects to advancing beyond the primary elements of consciousness; and any steps which it takes in the region of mental or moral phenomena it takes grudgingly and with a constant dread lest it should be led to recognize as real anything that can not be felt as we feel sticks and stones. The materialist has to live as other men, and, where his theories are not at stake, he will use ordinary human language as freely as others. He will talk of hope and fear, of love and hatred, of ambition and apathy, of honor and disgrace, of character and motive and principle, as if he knew what he meant, and as if the words he used answered to certain realities of human life. But, once touch his theory, and he will seek to drain these words of all meaning, or else fall back upon vague talk about "modes of matter."

Materialism is the refuge of minds that have been immaturely freed from spiritualism, or perhaps we may more fitly say, spiritism. By spiritism we mean that undeveloped condition of the mind in which hypothetical existences are required at every turn to account for observed phenomena, in which the mind can not bear to be left alone with facts. The child learning to walk holds by its mother's finger; the mind learning to think uses such hypotheses as it can construct, and for physical acts it frames spiritual antecedents. The child who thinks it can walk before it really can, and leaves its mother's finger, finds itself compelled to creep along by the wall. In like manner the materialist who has let go his spirit hypotheses is compelled to creep along by the wall, to rest upon something hard, in order to steady his steps. Divert his attention, and he will walk for a while with his hands free; but, remind him where he is, and he totters back in a moment to his tangible support.

The positivist, on the contrary, is a man who has learned to walk