Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 11.djvu/780

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Physiological Æsthetics. By Grant Allen, B. A. Pp. 283. New York: D. Appleton & Co. Price, $1.50.

Prof. Allen dedicates this book to Herbert Spencer as "the greatest of living philosophers," and, as might be expected from this, he treats his subject from the point of view of Spencer's philosophy and the law of evolution. This is only another exemplification of the power of a great principle, when newly introduced into thought, of modifying old beliefs and methods of study. Mr. Bain took up the investigation of the human mind more closely from the physiological side than had been before attempted in any general exposition; but he could not link psychology to physiology without bringing it more completely into the current of scientific progress. Hence, when the doctrine of evolution was accepted, physiology underwent a philosophical change which was so powerfully felt in psychology that Prof. Bain had to revise his methodical works to bring them into harmony with it. As æsthetics is occupied with a certain order of human feelings, its roots must be found in physiology, and Prof. Allen's book is an attempt to trace out the connection. We shall review this work more fully in the future, but may here remark that it has been received with great interest and very cordial approval abroad. There are various opinions as to the completeness of his analysis, and the sufficiency of some of his reasonings, but it is agreed that he has opened the subject in a broad aspect, and in a direction that must be pursued by future thinkers. The London Examiner thus refers to the work in the opening of its review:

"Among the branches of human activity which the growing science of physiology is destined to illuminate, the fine arts certainly have a place. In proof of this we need refer only to the work of a single living physiologist, H. Helmholtz. Of the importance of this thinker's physiological contributions to the theory of musical art it is unnecessary to speak. It may not be so widely known that this same physiologist has recently published an instructive essay, illustrating the bearing of optical science on the art of painting. This invasion of the region of æsthetics by natural science will be regarded as an evil by all those who suppose that this territory should be infolded in a mist of super-subtile metaphysical fancy. To those, however, who ask for a clear and well-defining daylight in all domains of inquiry, the new direction of physiological labor will be welcome. If anything is likely to supply a firm objective basis for æsthetic rules it is physiological science. Mr. Grant Allen distinctly recognizes this, and his volume is a valuable attempt to add to the physiological foundations of art.

"Our author begins with a timely protest against the unscientific idea, apparently countenanced by Mr. Raskin, that the pleasures of art are not susceptible of exact explanation. He holds that æsthetic enjoyments, like all other pleasures, may be brought under simple principles or laws of nervous action. Moreover, he goes further, and, by help of the new science of organic evolution, seeks to explain how it is that our nervous system has become so constituted as to respond in a pleasurable or painful manner to the various sensory stimuli. In this way he hopes to arrive at a complete answer to the question regarded as insoluble by Mr. Ruskin, 'Why do we receive pleasure from some forms and colors, and not from others?'

"The physiological method of study cannot as yet be safely carried into the discussion of art-effects beyond the simple sensations of tone, color, etc. The physiological conditions of the more complex delights of intellect and emotion are not as yet accessible. It is a question, indeed, whether as yet the physiological method is adequate to explaining all the æsthetic pleasure of tone and color, and their combinations. This, however, is the task which Mr. Allen sets before himself. He devotes the greater part of his space to the elementary pleasures of art, illustrating these, as is fitting, by a general review of the phenomena of pleasure and pain in the lower bodily regions and in the various senses. Following most recent writers on the subject, he connects pain with the destructive or injurious action of an organ, pleasure with the normal action corresponding to the amount of energy stored up at the time."

Bulletin of the Geological and Geographical Survey of the Territories (Hayden's). Volume III., No. 1. Pp. 185. With Plates. Washington: Government Printing-Office.

In this number of the "Bulletin" are contained twelve papers, mostly on subjects anthropological and entomological. Among them is one by the Rev. M. Eells, on the Twana Indians of the Skokomish Reservation, in Washington Territory. This is an instructive account of the condition of a tribe of Indians in the transition state from savagism to semi-civilization.

Recent Progress in Sanitary Science. By A. R. Leeds. Pp. 22. Salem: printed at the Salem press.

The progress made in sanitary science during recent years consists, according to