Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 35.djvu/850

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analogous to those which we have observed in animals, to errors of the senses, and to other illusions of the reasoning faculty.

From the hen that sits on its empty nest to the problem of Zeno the Eleatic, there runs through animals and men a continuous series of errors, all of which have a common origin in the working of the nervous system conformably to the majority of cases without regarding any certain special and exceptional case. The typical character of these errors is related to the phylogenic development, and casts a degree of light on the unfolding of thought.—Translated for the Popular Science Monthly from the Revue Scientifique.



MOTION gives both physical and moral pleasure. Physically, it enables us to remove ourselves for the moment from pain. Morally, it furnishes a satisfaction for our self-love, which is remarked especially in play and in our struggles against the forces of nature.

Before being a source of positive pleasure, our physical activity is stimulated by pain. Those movements, called spontaneous, which are the first signs of vitality in the child or animal, are explained by supposing them to be the reflex of some indefinite discomfort. Our organism is not a machine, as some say, in any of its parts, but is living and animated throughout. Even the organs that perform without the intervention of the will, and the play of which seems to be mechanical because it is not accompanied with a recognizable sensation, may have the rhythm of their movements determined by some local sensibility.

When I feel any suffering, I have only to execute some motion, to feel it less. Motion is the best of anæsthetics. It disperses at a stroke all the little uneasinesses that accompany even the normal working of our organs, and which we experience when we are occupied only with feeling ourselves live. When we make an energetic effort, we are nearly insensible to pain as long as it lasts. When I am at rest, a blow on the shoulder will hurt me. In the ardor of sport, in the excitement of a violent exercise, the roughest shock will hardly be felt. Every very intense sensation, we also know, provokes convulsive movements, sudden and violent muscular contractions. These movements are not mechanically determined by the sensation; they are produced voluntarily, although they will not remove the cause of the pain, at least to mitigate its effect. The howling of the wounded dog, the squirming of the worm that is cut in two, are a voluntary effort to escape suffering.