Open main menu

Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 21.djvu/810

This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.

the greatest care; but no sooner had his patient left the office than he would run out to take the paper away, fearing that he had made a mistake, that he had prescribed a poisonous dose of some medicine, or had given some direction inconsistent with the symptoms.

The doubting folly assumes an infinite number of different forms. Without making an excessive use of subdivisions, we must establish a few categories.

We give the first place, in the order of dignity, to the metaphysicians. They are constantly preoccupied with the insoluble problems of philosophy. They are continually questioning about God, about the universe, about the creation of the world. They will ask themselves, Who created the Creator? They seek for the origin of language. They trouble themselves about the end of things, about the immortality of the soul; or, turning their attention to the physical universe, they endeavor to comprehend the phenomena of nature and the fluids that direct them. Our patient belongs to this category. The great object of his preoccupations is self, personality, the real existence of the objects of which he has a subjective perception. He reproduces without knowing it the ideas and often the expressions of the great philosophers who have cast the lead into these abysses. Next to the metaphysicians, we should place those whom I will call the realists. They are occupied with more or less trivial questions that do not permit any elevation of thought. A Russian prince, mentioned by Griesinger, wanted to know why men were not as large as houses; another patient, why the fire-place that warmed his room was fixed against the wall instead of being in the middle of the room; a third, why there was only one moon instead of two. Once started in this course, the patient attaches himself with a morbid tenacity to the most insignificant subjects, and they become for him the point of departure of an intellectual torture.

Next are the scrupulous, of whom Esquirol's patient offers a finished type. They are always reproaching themselves about everything, are tiresome with the precision of their speech, and are constantly afraid that they have not told the exact truth.

The timorous form a fourth class. They are people who, always afraid they will compromise themselves, are incessantly taking exaggerated precautions, and live in a perpetual disquiet. A woman, who was an artist and very intelligent, could never go into the street without a fear that some one would fall down from a window to her feet. She would ask what the consequences of such an accident would be, and saw herself already arrested and taken to prison under an accusation of homicide.

A fifth class, whose mania is really insupportable, are the counters. They are persons who, wherever they may be, are concerned with the number of objects. In the doctor's office, instead of being occupied with the subject of consultation, they are counting the buttons on the