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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 4.djvu/321

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REPLIES TO CRITICISMS.

It is thus with the pure Empiricists and the pure Transcendentalists. Down to the present time disciples of Locke have continued to hold that all mental phenomena are interpretable as results of accumulated individual experiences; and, by criticism, have been led simply to elaborate their interpretations: ignoring the proofs of inadequacy. On the other hand, disciples of Kant, asserting this inadequacy, and led by perception of it to adopt an antagonist theory, have persisted in defending that theory under a form presenting fatal inconsistencies. And then, when there is offered a mode of reconciliation, the spirit of no-compromise is displayed: each side continuing to claim the whole truth. After it has been pointed out that all the obstacles in the way of the experiential doctrine disappear if the effects of ancestral experiences are joined with the effects of individual experiences, the old form of the doctrine is still adhered to, while Kantists persist in asserting that the ego is born with intuitional forms which are wholly independent of any thing in the non-ego, after it has been shown that the innateness of these intuitional forms may be so understood as to escape the insurmountable difficulties of the hypothesis as originally expressed.

I am led to say this by reading the remarks concerning my own views, made with an urbanity I hope to imitate, by Prof. Max Müller, in a lecture delivered at the Royal Institution last March.[1] Before dealing with the criticisms contained in this lecture, I must enter a demurrer against that interpretation of my views by which Prof. Max Müller makes it appear that they are more allied to those of Kant than to those of Locke. He says:

"Whether the prehistoric genesis of these congenital dispositions or inherited necessities of thought, as suggested by Mr. Herbert Spencer, be right or wrong, does not signify for the purpose which Kant had in view. In admitting that there is something in our mind which is not the result of our own a posteriori experience, Mr. Herbert Spencer is a thorough Kantian, and we shall see that he is a Kantian in other respects too. If it could be proved that nervous modifications, accumulated from generation to generation, could result in nervous structures, that are fixed in proportion as the outer relations to which they answer are fixed, we, as followers of Kant, should only have to put in the place of Kant's intuitions of Space and Time 'the constant space-relations expressed in definite nervous structures congenitally framed to act in definite ways, and incapable of acting in any other way.' If Mr. Herbert Spencer had not misunderstood the exact meaning of what Kant calls the intuitions of Space and Time, he would have perceived that, barring his theory of the prehistoric origin of these intuitions, he was quite at one with Kant."

On this passage let me remark, first, that the word "prehistoric," ordinarily employed only in respect to human history, is misleading when applied to the history of Life in general; and his use of it leaves me in some doubt whether Prof. Max Müller has rightly conceived the hypothesis he refers to.

  1. See Fraser'a Magazine of May last.