Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 59.djvu/526

From Wikisource
Jump to: navigation, search
This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.
516
POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

if not always so held ostensibly, himself, and the other part being the aggregate of whatever else was left over. Though dimly perceived and of little account in its effects, this is, apparently, the working hypothesis of many men in the civilized society of to-day. But the magnitude of the latter part and its inexorable relations to man seem to have led him speedily to the adoption of the second hypothesis, namely, that the latter part, or world external to himself, is also the abode of sentient beings, some of a lower and some of a higher order than man; their role tending on the whole to make his sojourn on this planet tolerable and his exit from it creditable, while yet wielding at times a more or less despotic influence over him.

How the details of these hypotheses have been worked out is a matter of something like history for a few nationalities, and is a matter absorbing the attention of anthropologists, archeologists and ethnologists as it concerns races in general. Without going far afield in these profoundly interesting and instructive details, it may suffice for the present purposes to cite two facts which seem to furnish the key to a substantially correct interpretation of subsequent developments.

The first of these is that the early dualistic and antithetical visualization of the problem in question has persisted with wonderful tenacity down to the present day. The accessible and familiar was set over against the inaccessible and unfamiliar; or what we now call the natural, though intimately related to, was more or less opposed to the supernatural; the latter being, in fact, under the uncertain sway of, and the former subject to the arbitrary jurisdiction of, good and evil spirits.

The second fact is that man thus early devised for the investigation of this problem three distinct methods, which have likewise persisted with equal tenacity, though with varying fortunes, down to the present day. The first of these is what is known as the à priori method. It reasons from subjective postulates to objective results. It requires, in its purity, neither observation nor experiment on the external world. It often goes so far, indeed, as to adopt conclusions and leave the assignment of the reasons for them to a subsequent study. The second is known as the historico-critical method. It depends, in its purity, on tradition, history, direct human testimony and verbal congruity. It does not require an appeal to Nature except as manifested in man. It limits observation and experiment to human affairs. The third is the method of science. It begins, in its elements, with observation and experiment. Its early applications were limited mostly to material things. In its subsequent expansion it has gained a footing in nearly every field of thought. Its prime characteristic is the insistence on objective verification of its results.