Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 21.djvu/162

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walls, the heroes within it, with their wives and children, as well as the Greek warriors and their ships, without it—everything, including the Trojan horse and what it contained—from a parcel of solar myths, demonstrating to their own satisfaction that all these persons and things were, at bottom, nothing more than "objectivations" of forms and laws of speech. As was to be expected, this fine theory came to grief when Schliemann appeared with a pickaxe and spade. As usual, the theory collapsed in the presence of the facts. Be that as it may, there is one thing these scientific pretenders persist in asserting, in spite of all their past discomfitures: that more than three fourths of the controversies in theology and metaphysics have had their rise in the ignorance of the fathers of the Church, and of mediaeval and modern scholastics, of the results brought to light in these new-fangled sciences. Unfortunately, when I was less old and waiy than I am now, I fell in with these "paradoxers," some of whom I knew to be men of great learning, and believed to be persons of thorough earnestness of purpose. To my astonishment I found two mathematicians among them—Hermann Grassmann and Franz Woepcke. I had read with some difficulty, but, as I thought, with reasonable grasp of his meaning, the "Ausdehnungslehre" (since supplemented by a new treatise under nearly the same title, and a number of articles in Crelle's and Borchardt's "Journal") of Grassmann; and I had attempted to read some of the writings of Woejcke, though without success, because he went far beyond my depth. But I got an impression that both had things to say—in mathematics, at least—that were worth knowing; and inferred that there must be sense and purpose also in their linguistic endeavors. In this way I became interested, and gradually caught the spirit of the comparative linguists and mycologists by contagion. And so it came to pass that, after a while, I asked myself this question: "If the results of these sciences are available for the solution of the perplexities of the metaphysicians, why may they not also throw some light on the nature of our perplexities in physics?: So far as I could learn, no one had attempted an orderly and systematic answer to this question, although (as is not unusual in cases of this sort) there was a considerable amount of scattered material ready to the hand of whomsoever should undertake the work. Under these circumstances, I was fool-hardy enough to make an attempt myself, the result being my poor little book. And now I confess I am not a little mortified at being informed that I am a "learned and able" idiot; and I derive but scant comfort from the assurance that my mental predicament may be accounted for on the theory of contagion, and that the hypothesis of congenital imbecility may be avoided.

But it is time to doff my Gerundian robes and to cease apostrophizing the familiars, for I have things to say which ought to be said in all earnestness and sobriety. I am about to examine Professor