Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 8.djvu/147

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
This page has been validated.
135
MARTINEAU AND MATERIALISM.

This language, which was spoken in 1872, Mr. Martineau "freely" translates, and quotes against me. The act is due to a misapprehension of his own. Evidence is at hand to prove that I employed the same language twenty years ago. It is to be found in the Saturday Review for 1860; but a sufficient illustration of the agreement between my friend Du Bois-Reymond and myself is furnished by the discourse on "Scientific Materialism," delivered in 1868, then widely circulated, and reprinted here. With a little attention, Mr. Martineau would have seen that, in the very address his essay criticises, precisely the same position is maintained. "You cannot," I there say, "satisfy the human understanding in its demand for logical continuity between molecular processes and the phenomena of consciousness. This is a rock on which materialism must inevitably split whenever it pretends to be a complete philosophy of the human mind."

"The affluence of illustration," writes an able and sympathetic reviewer of this essay, in the New York Tribune, "in which Mr. Martineau delights often impairs the distinctness of his statements by diverting the attention of the reader from the essential points of his discussion to the beauty of his imagery, and thus diminishes their power of conviction." To the beauties here referred to I bear willing testimony; but the excesses touched upon reach far beyond the reader, to their primal seat and source in Mr. Martineau's own mind; mixing together there things that ought to be kept apart; producing vagueness where precision is the one thing needful; poetic fervor where we require judicial calm; and practical unfairness where the strictest justice ought to be, and I willingly believe is meant to be, observed.

In one of his nobler passages, Mr. Martineau tells us how the pupils of his college have been educated hitherto: "They have been trained under the assumptions—1. That the universe which includes us and folds us round is the life-dwelling of an Eternal Mind; 2. That the world of our abode is the scene of a moral government, incipient but not complete; and, 3. That the upper zones of human affection, above the clouds of self and passion, take us into the sphere of a Divine communion. Into this overarching scene it is that growing thought and enthusiasm have expanded to catch their light and fire."

Alpine summits must kindle above the mountaineer who reads these stirring words; I see their beauty and feel their life. Nay, in my own feeble way, at the close of one of the essays here printed, I thus affirm the "communion" which Mr. Martineau calls "Divine:" "'Two things,' said Immanuel Kant, 'fill me with awe—the starry heavens, and the sense of moral responsibility in man.' And in his hours of health and strength and sanity,[1] when the stroke of action

  1. In the first preface to the Belfast Address I referred to "hours of clearness and vigor" as four years previously I had referred to hours of "health and strength and