Popular Science Monthly/Volume 4/April 1874/Literary Notices

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LITERARY NOTICES.

English Psychology. Translated from the French of Theodore Ribot,[1] Professor of Philosophy in the Lycée at Laval. New York: D. Appleton & Co. 328 pp. Price, $1.50.

The study of the human mind is beyond all doubt one of the most sublime and important, as it is certainly one of the most difficult, of all studies. So great is its interest that it has fascinated philosophers for thousands of years, and so great is its difficulty that of all branches of inquiry it has proved least amenable to investigation, and has led to the most discordant conclusions. From the beginning of speculation it has been pursued by a method that has failed to yield agreement or results that have compelled the general acceptance of thinkers. Its problems were too complex, subtile, and exalted, to be effectually dealt with before men had been trained to the work of investigation on the subordinate planes of natural phenomena. The lower before the higher, the simple before the complex, must be the law of movement where not only truths of the highest order are to be reached, but the methods by which they are to be arrived at have also to be discovered. There was needed a long and severe apprenticeship of science in the work of unraveling phenomena before the realm of mind could be entered with any confidence of its conquest. And it was not only necessary to learn by scientific practice the difficult art of investigation, but the solution of mental problems was vitally dependent upon a species of knowledge which ordinary science alone could disclose. Of mind, as a phenomenon to be investigated, we know nothing whatever, except as a manifestation of organic life. It is conditioned by organic laws, and there can be no competent mental science that does not recognize this truth. Mind, moreover, is exhibited, with a thousand modifications, through all the grades of animate being, and these diversities must be regarded by any true science of the subject. The psychical natures of the quadruped, the bird, the fish, the insect, may not be so dignified as that of man, and may afford less inspiring themes for declamation, but, in a scientific point of view, they are of equal interest, and their investigation is imperative. It could not be otherwise, therefore, than that mental philosophy should be profoundly affected both by that drill in research and that extension of knowledge which have resulted from the last three centuries of scientific progress. The new phase which the subject has consequently assumed is known as the Modern Psychology or the New Psychology, and this has given rise to a school of thought, the most eminent representatives of which are Englishmen. With a few exceptions, and those of hardly the highest mark, Germany clings to the old methods. France is behind the age in every thing, our own country is crippling along after European traditions, and it is left to England to pioneer the world in the work of psychological development.

Prof. Ribot's book is the tribute of a candid and unprejudiced foreigner to the greatness of the English school of scientific psychology, and it is an admirable analysis of the contributions of the representative English writers upon this subject. An enthusiastic student of philosophy himself, and thoroughly imbued with the scientific spirit, Prof. Ribot brings eminent qualifications to his task, and grasps the subject with the power of a master, while his work has a judicial fairness in the estimate of men that is favored by his foreign point of view. He writes, moreover, with a point and clearness that are quite unusual in treating this class of subjects. Prof. Ribot gives us in this volume a lucid account of the systems of Hartley, James Mill, Herbert Spencer, Alexander Bain, George H. Lewes, Samuel Bailey, and John Stuart Mill, and his work altogether affords the best delineation we have of the positions and grounds of the New Psychological School that has come forward into such prominence in the present generation.

Prof. Ribot prefixes to his volume an admirable and instructive introductory chapter on the relations of philosophy, science, and metaphysics, and the gradual growth and present position of scientific psychology. In his section considering the several definitions of it, he remarks as follows concerning one of them:

"We are told that psychology is the science of the human soul. That is a very narrow and incomplete idea of it. Is biology ever defined as the science of human life? Has physiology ever believed, even in its infancy, that its only object was man? Have they not considered, on the contrary, that every thing which has organized and manifested life belongs to them––the infusoria, as well as man? Now, unless we admit the Cartesian opinion of animal machines—which has no longer, to my knowledge, an adherent—we must acknowledge that animals have their sensations, their sentiments, their desires, their pleasures, their pains, their character, just like ourselves; that there is a collection of psychological facts which one has no right to subtract from the science. Who has studied those facts? The naturalists, and not the psychologists. If we were to go further, we might show that ordinary psychology, in restricting itself to man, has not even included the whole of mankind; that it has taken no heed of the inferior races (black and yellow); that it has contented itself with affirming that the human faculties are identical in nature and various only in degree, as if the difference of degree might not sometimes be such as to be equivalent to a difference of nature; that in man it has taken the faculties already constituted, and rarely occupied itself with their mode of development; so that, finally, psychology, instead of being the science of psychical phenomena, has simply made man, adult, civilized, and white, its object.

"We have seen how psychology understands its object, let us now see how it understands its method. This consists entirely in reflection, or interior observation. Assuredly, no one believes more firmly than we do in the necessity of this mode of observation; it is the point of departure, the indispensable condition of all psychology, and those who have denied it, like Broussais and Auguste Comte, have so completely gone against evidence, and given the game to their adversaries, that their most faithful disciples have not gone so far with them. It is certain that the anatomist and the physiologist might pass centuries in studying the brain and the nerves, without ever suspecting what a pleasure or a pain is, if they have not felt both.

"No testimony is so valuable on this point as that of consciousness, and we are always brought back to that saying of an anatomist—'In the presence of the fibres of the brain, we are like hackney-coachmen, who know the streets and the houses, but know nothing of what takes place inside them.' It is also certain that the objections made to this method of observation have been very well discussed. But is it true that interior observation is the unique method of psychology? that it reveals every thing, that it suffices for every thing? Taken in its rigorous meaning, this doctrine would lead to the impossibility of the science. For, if my reflection apprises me of that which passes in me, it is absolutely incapable of enabling me to penetrate into the mind of another. A more complicated process is necessary for that. We are talking; a man present at our conversation joins in it with an absent manner, says a few words with evident effort, and forces a smile; I conclude from all this that he is a prey to some hidden trouble. I may soon divine its causes if I have a penetrating mind, and if I am acquainted with this man and his antecedents. But this psychological discovery is a very complex operation, of which the following are the stages: perception of signs and gestures, interpretation of those signs, induction from effects to causes, inference, reasoning by analogy. It has nothing in common with interior observation except that aptitude for knowing others better which comes from knowing one's self better. Thus, one of two things is the case: either psychology is limited to interior observations, and, these being completely individual, it has no longer any scientific character; or else it is extended to other men, it searches out laws, it practises induction, it reasons, and then it is susceptible of progress; but its method is to a great extent objective. Interior observation alone is not sufficient for the weakest psychology."

 
INTERNATIONAL SCIENTIFIC SERIES, NO. VIII.

Animal Locomotion; or, Walking, Swimming, and Flying. With a Dissertation on Aëronautics. By J. Bell Pettigrew, M. D., F. R. S. New York: D. Appleton & Co. 264 pp. Illustrated. Price, $1.75.

Locomotion by steam began but a few years since; its principles are simple, and the machines by which it is accomplished are all of one general construction; yet we have already whole libraries of literature—folios, quartos, and octaves, cyclopædias, essays, and catechisms, technical and popular—expounding and explaining it. Much also has been written in elucidation of the principles and mechanisms of progression that are illustrated in the animal kingdom; but the present volume of Dr. Pettigrew is the first popular monograph on the subject that we have seen, and, although not large, it contains much curious and interesting information upon all aspects of it. But the chief interest of Dr. Pettigrew's book for thoughtful readers will consist in the skillful way he strikes through those diversities of movement and medium which are involved in the three forms of progression, and brings out the principles that are common to all. "We are apt," he says, "to consider walking as distinct from swimming, and walking and swimming as distinct from flying, than which there can be no greater mistake. Walking, swimming, and flying are, in reality, only modifications of each other. Walking merges into swimming, and swimming into flying, by insensible gradations. The modifications which result in walking, swimming, and flying, are necessitated by the fact that the earth affords a greater amount of support than the water, and the water than the air. That walking, swimming, and flying, represent integral parts of the same problem, is proved by the fact that most quadrupeds swim as well as walk, and some even fly, while many marine animals walk as well as swim, and birds and insects walk, swim, and fly, indiscriminately."

The problem thus becomes interesting from the unity of its fundamental laws, but for the author it has more than a speculative interest; it has a scientific importance as furnishing conditions for solving the problems of artificial progression.

Upon this point he remarks: "The history of artificial progression is essentially that of natural progression. The same laws regulate and determine both. The wheel of the locomotive and the screw of the steamship apparently greatly differ from the limb of the quadruped, the fin of the fish, and the wing of the bird; but, as I shall show in the sequel, the curves which go to form the wheel and the screw are found in the traveling surfaces of all animals, whether they be limbs (furnished with feet), or fins, or wings.

"It is a remarkable circumstance that the undulation or wave made by the wing of an insect, bat, or bird, when those animals are hovering before an object, and when they are flying, corresponds in a marked manner with the track described by the stationary and progressive waves in fluids, and likewise with the waves of sound.

"Of all animal movements, flight is indisputably the finest. It may be regarded as the poetry of motion. The fact that a creature as heavy, bulk for bulk, as are many solid substances can, by the unaided movements of its wings, urge itself through the air with a speed little short of that of a cannonball, fills the mind with wonder. Flight (if I may be allowed the expression) is a more unstable movement than that of walking and swimming, the instability increasing as the medium to be traversed becomes less dense. It, however, does not essentially differ from the other two, and I shall be able to show, in the following pages, that the materials and forces employed in flight are literally the same as those employed in walking and swimming."

These passages foreshadow the character of Dr. Pettigrew's book. He works out the principles of animal locomotion as a further step in the progress of artificial locomotion, by which the theoretical issues in the practical. After an elaborate analysis of the anatomical and dynamical conditions of flight, he goes into the question of its imitation by art, and points out the conditions on which he thinks the problem may be ultimately solved. Here, of course, he launches into an untried field, abounding with difficulty, and open to a diversity of opinions. Already a brisk controversy has sprung up in the London journals over his theory of flight, and the question of precedence in its elucidation between the French and the English; but, whatever may be its merits, the interest of Dr. Pettigrew's contributions to the question in the present volume will remain unaffected. We should not omit to state that the volume is profusely and beautifully illustrated with original cuts and plates.

 

Prang's Natural History Series of Colored Chromos. For Schools and Families. Classified by N. A. Calkins; 14 large Plates; 192 Cards. Price of full set, $10. J. W. Schermerhorn & Co., Agents, 14 Bond Street, New York.

Mr. Prang, having achieved fortune and fame in the cultivation of the chromo-lithographic art in the department of fancy pictures, has at length turned his attention to education, and applied it to the illustration of objects of natural history. A large number of specimens of plants and animals, selected by Mr. Calkins to represent the more interesting groups of organic forms, are printed in colors upon cards for convenience of handling in the class-room. It needs not to be said that these illustrations are beautifully executed, and cannot fail to prove in a high degree attractive to children. That they have been executed with care and correctness, under the vigilant direction of Mr. Calkins, there can be no doubt. As to their utility in education, that will depend entirely upon the teacher and the policy of the school. If employed as guides to the study of real objects, they cannot fail to be helpful; but, if subordinated to the usual system of study, and accepted in place of the things they represent, they will have simply the value of excellent pictures, and will add to the already immense mass of hindrances and stumbling-blocks which the schools interpose between the minds of children and the objects of Nature.

The Stone Age, Past and Present, by E. B. Tylor; and Theory of Nervous Ether, by Dr. Richardson, F. R. S. Boston: Estes & Lauriat. Price, 25 cents.

This is No. 9 of "Half-Hour Recreations in Popular Science." The first paper is a popular account of the stone age, or, as the author puts it, "of that period in the history of mankind during which stone was habitually used as a material for weapons and tools." This period he divides into two parts, the first of which he calls the Unground Stone Age, when the implements employed were merely chipped out, and used in a comparatively rough and imperfect shape. Such implements are found in greatest abundance in the Drift or Quaternary Deposits, and in the early bone-caves, and consist largely of chipped flints, apparently designed for spear-heads, arrow-heads, scrapers, knives, etc. The second or later division of the period above referred to—the Ground Stone Age—is characterized by the employment of ground and often polished instruments of stone, much more perfect than the chipped forms, and therefore denoting a higher stage of human progress. Stone implements are found in nearly every part of the world, and, whatever their source, show a remarkable uniformity of pattern. This latter feature the author accounts for partly on the principle that man does the same thing under the same circumstances, and partly on the belief that the art was derived by one race from another. The evidences of the stone age, brought to light in the countries hitherto explored, take up the remainder of the paper. Any one wishing a general idea of what is at present known on this interesting subject, will be well repaid by a perusal of this essay.

The theory of a nervous ether we will give in the author's own words: "The idea attempted to be conveyed by the theory is, that between the molecules of the matter, solid or fluid, of which the nervous organism, and indeed of which all the organic parts of the body are composed, there exists a refined, subtile medium, vaporous or gaseous, which holds the molecules in a condition for motion upon each other, and for arrangement and rearrangement of form; a medium by and through which all motion is conveyed; by and through which the one organ or part of the body is held in communion with the other parts, and by and through which the outer living world communicates with the living man—a medium which, being present, enables the phenomena of life to be demonstrated, and which, being universally absent, leaves the body actually dead; in such condition, i. e., that it cannot, by any phenomenon of motion, prove itself to be alive." The paper is devoted to an elucidation of this theory.

 

Insects of the Garden: Their Habits, etc. By A. S. Packard, Jr. Boston: Estes & Lauriat. Price, 25 cents.

This is the first part of a volume from the pen of Prof. Packard, entitled "Half-Hours with Insects," to be issued in twelve parts, of about 36 pages each, by the above house. Beginning with some general considerations on the relations of living objects to one another, the author passes thence to the subject of agriculture, and the manner in which its interests are affected by the incursions of insects. Numerous instances are given of their terrible destructiveness to crops, which, though apparently insignificant when estimated, say, for a single township, amounts to something almost incredible when an entire State or country is included in the calculation. According to the reports of Dr. Fitch, $12,000,000 worth of wheat has been destroyed in the State of New York, in a single year, by the wheat-midge and Hessian-fly. An interesting account is next given of the reproduction, growth, and metamorphosis, of insects, with some remarks on their psychology, their relations to each other, and their relations to other animals. The last twelve pages are devoted to the insects of the garden, some of the more noxious of which are described, their habits sketched, and the means of combating them indicated. A beautiful chromo-lithograph, showing the different stages of insect metamorphosis, heads the issue, and the succeeding pages abound with well-executed illustrations. For clearness and vigor of style, the name of the author is sufficient guarantee.

Manual of Physical Geography and Institutions of the State of Iowa. By C. A. White, Professor of Geology in the State University. Davenport: Day, Egbert & Fidlar. 1873.

This book was made for use in the schools of Iowa, being limited to the physical geography and institutions of that State. This has enabled the author to give a large amount of information, locally valuable, that would be obviously out of place in a more general work. For convenience, the book is divided into two parts. Part I. gives an account of the leading natural features of the State—its physical geography, geology, climate, soil, minerals, and natural history. Part II. deals with the history of the State, and includes an account of its educational, charitable, and penal institutions. The few who may desire to carry the study into a wider field, will find the mastery of this work an excellent preparation.

The Theory and Practice of Linear Perspective. Translated from the French of V. Pellegrin. New York: Putnam's Sons. 51 pp., with colored chart.

The author claims that books of this kind are generally too theoretical, and that he has aimed to make this especially practical. It was adopted by the educational authorities of Paris, and commended by them as a "little book which, under a modest form, contains ideas of which the popularization would be of great use—'The Practical Theory of Perspective,' a study for the use of artists, etc., by Monsieur V. Pellegrin, late Professor of Topography at the Military School of St. Cyr. The author, himself a painter, and accustomed to the manipulation of geometrical methods, was particularly qualified for writing this treatise; and he has been able, by dint of research and ability, to condense into a small number of pages the laws of perspective; and to extract, from a confused mass, rules which are very simple and easily applicable to every possible case; thus placing a sure and clear guide within the reach of all students, artists, and amateurs. Monsieur Pellegrin's excellent treatise will become a standard work."

Submerged and Different Forms of Retaining Walls. By James S. Tate, C. E. New York: D. Van Nostrand. 1874. Price, 50 cents.

This is No. 7 of the publisher's "Science Series." The simple statement of what the author has proposed to himself to accomplish will be the best evidence of the value of this little manual. His object was to furnish to engineers a certain and ready means of ascertaining the pressures of embankments, submerged or otherwise, composed of different materials; also the moments of retaining walls, of different forms of cross-section, to successfully withstand those pressures. By having this little book at hand, the engineer will be saved the trouble of many a long calculation.

How to become a Successful Engineer. By Bernard Stuart. New York: D. Van Nostrand. 127 pp., 18mo. Price, 50 cents.

This little work, which is designed particularly for the mechanical engineer, but, in a more general way, also for the civil engineer, is more indicative than instructive. That is, it points out the studies to be pursued without explaining their nature, and it tells the apprentice what work he will find in the machine-shop, without detailing the method in which it is done. It contains some practical suggestions on the importance of good habits, self-reliance, and dexterity of hand.

Legal Responsibility in Old Age. By George M. Beard, A. M., M. D. New York: Printed by Russell's American Steam Printing-House; 42 pp., 8vo.

This is an address delivered before the Medico-Legal Society of New York, in March, 1873. It discusses the effects of age on the mental faculties, as evidenced in the works of the greatest men of all times. The author states that his method was to study the biographies of such men, and observe the average age at which their best works were produced. The conclusion reached is, that the best work is done between thirty and forty, the worst between seventy and eighty, and that the growth, maturity, and decay, of the mind, are coeval with the corresponding stages of the body. As a corollary, it is held that the moral faculties also decay with the downward curve of life. The fact is pointed out that one or more of the moral faculties may decay, while the rest remain sound. The address concludes with an earnest protest against the prevailing mode of testing moral responsibility in courts of law, and recommends, as an improvement, the appointment by the States of an examining commission, composed of from three to five psychological experts. It is both interesting and instructive.

Physical Geography. By John Young, M. D., L. R. C. S., etc. New York: G. P. Putnam's Sons. 368 pp. Price, $1.50.

This book is a condensed statement of the principal geological and biological truths and such astronomical facts as relate to the earth. In the introductory chapter, the author thus describes the sphere of his subject: "Physical geography takes up the results achieved in all these departments—geology, biology, and astronomy—and proceeds to higher generalizations.. It shows how the behavior of the earth, as a body in space, and its relations to other bodies, determine the atmospheric currents, and, through them, the movements of the ocean; it points out how the ocean-currents modify and are affected by the tides; it determines the extent to which the character and variation of the climate are dependent on secular changes. The changes of sea and land, as ascertained by the geologists, are used to explain the movements of organized forms, and the biologist finds, in atmospheric, topographical, and climatal influences, the key to the presence or absence, the abundance or scarcity, of particular groups in any locality."

In connection with the composition of the earth's crust, are described the classification, formation, and chemical constitution of rocks; also the production and geological importance of fossils. The configuration of the earth's surface, or the distribution of land and water, with the changes it has undergone; the formation of islands and continents; ocean and atmospheric currents; forms of water in the atmosphere, as snow, rain, mist, etc.; climate and weather, are briefly though clearly set forth. Apparently the only fault of the book is that less space has been devoted to describing the distribution of plants and animals than the importance of the subject demands. As may be inferred from its nature, the book contains no new truths, but its value suffers no impairment therefrom. It has the merit of being free from the influence of particular theories, and, where unsettled questions are discussed, the author conscientiously endeavors to give the reader the drift of scientific opinion.

The Birth of Chemistry. By G. F. Rodwell, F. R. S., F. C. S. London: Macmillan & Co. 135 pp., 12mo. Price, $1.50.

The origin of chemistry is herein traced through the grotesque alchemic vagaries of the middle ages to the natural philosophy of the ancient Greeks and their contemporaries. The quaint admixture of truth and error, constituting their so-called natural philosophy, is first shown. The ideas of primary elements and their transmutations; the metals known to the ancients and the manner in which they were worked; ancient colors and chemical compounds, are all described in a manner calculated to please the general reader. The origin of alchemy is traced to Arabia about the fourth century a. d. The mysteries of alchemy are likewise detailed, as well as the theories of combustion and phlogiston, out of which legitimate chemistry was developed about 150 years ago, by the efforts of Boerhaave, Lavoisier, and others.

Essays on Educational Reformers. By R. H. Quick, M. A. Cincinnati: Robert Clarke & Co. 328 pp., 12mo. Price, $2.00.

This is a review of the principal educational doctrines, beginning with the once famous schools of the Jesuits, and ending with Herbert Spencer. The main features of each doctrine are given and commented on in a liberal tone. The author differs from Mr. Spencer in some important points, such as the worthlessness of ordinary history, the value of the sciences, and the position fine arts and belles-lettres should occupy in education. In the two concluding chapters he gives his own views on secular education and moral and religious training. Outlines of the lives of the earlier Reformers are given in connection with the discussion of their doctrines. The work possesses value as a history of modern education.

 


PUBLICATIONS RECEIVED.


The Border-Land of Science. By Richard A. Proctor, B. A. J. B. Lippincott & Co. 1874.

The Structure of Animal Life. By Louis Agassiz. New York: Scribner, Armstrong & Co. 1874.

A Manual of Inorganic Chemistry the Non-Metals. By T. E. Thorpe, Ph. D. New York: G. P. Putnam's Sons.

Animal Physiology, and the Structure and Functions of the Human Body. By John Cleland, M. D. Putnam.

Politics and Mysteries of Life Insurance. By Elizur Wright. Lee & Shepard. 1873.

Inorganic Chemistry. By W. B. Kemshead. Putnam.

Addresses and Proceedings of the National Educational Association. Published by the Association. 1873.

An Elementary Treatise on Steam. By John Perry, B. E. Macmillan. 1874.

The Galvanometer and its Uses. By C. H. Haskins. Van Nostrand. 1873.

Building Construction. Putnam.

Elements of Zoology. By M. Harbison. New York: Putnam.

Bulletin of the Bussey Institution. Boston. Pp. 80.

The Progressive Ship-Builder. By John W. Griffiths. Illustrated. New York: The Nautical Gazette Print. 1874. Pp. 32.

Notice of New Equine Mammals from the Tertiary Formation. By O. C. Marsh. Pp. 12.

Twenty-second Annual Report of the Detroit Water Commissioners. 1873.

Report of the Committee on the Yellow Fever Epidemic. Shreveport Medical Society.

Uncivilized Man. A Lecture by Bishop Cotterill, of Edinburgh. Edinburgh: R. Grant & Son. 1874. Pp. 30.

Bulletin of the United States Geological and Geographical Survey of the Territories. No. 1. Washington: Government Printing office. 1874. Pp. 28.

A Short Treatise on the Compound Steam-Engine. By John Turnbull, Jr. New York: Van Nostrand. 1874. Pp.43.

 

  1. Pronounced Rebo.