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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 54.djvu/471

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453
MIVART'S GROUNDWORK OF SCIENCE.

he is consistent with himself, and the attempt to learn whether Mivart's book is consistent may not greatly tax our minds.

He tells us that many men of science are "idealists"; and he says that idealism, being mere self-stultifying skepticism, must be refuted and demolished before we can begin our search for the groundwork of science or be sure that we know anything. It would have surprised Berkeley not a little to be told that his notions are the very essence of skepticism, for the good bishop tells us again and again that his only motive in writing is to make an end of idle skepticism, once for all, that they who are no philosophers, but simple, honest folks, may come by their own and live at ease.

There is little ease, and less justice, even at this late day, for the man of science who insists that he is neither an idealist nor a materialist nor a monist, but a naturalist; and that it will be time enough to have an opinion as to the relation between mind and matter when we find out; but many will, no doubt, be pleased to hear that the crime of which they are now suspected is no longer "materialism," but "idealism," for the public attaches no odium to the idealist, whatever may be Professor Mivart's verdict. Still all must feel an interest in the exposure of the weakness of idealism, since we have been told, by many shrewd thinkers, that Berkeley's statement of the case, while inconclusive, is unanswerable; although they hold that it is lack of experimental evidence which stands in the way of either its acceptance or its refutation.

Mivart begins his treatment of idealism by a simple and satisfactory summary, pages 36-38, of Berkeley's Principles, but he forgets it on the next page, for it is no exaggeration to assert that the "idealism" which he refutes is a mere parody on that which he has just given his readers, and something that no sane man would dream of holding.

For example, he admits, on page 38, that nothing "can be more absurd than the criticism of those persons who say that idealists, to be consistent, ought to run up against lamp-posts, fall into ditches, and commit other like absurdities." On page 47 he undertakes to show, "by the natural spontaneous judgment of mankind," that external material bodies exist "of themselves, and have a substantial reality in addition to that of the qualities we perceive; because the spontaneous judgment of mankind accords with what even animals learn through their senses. A wide river is an objective obstacle to the progress of a man's dog, as well as to that of the dog's owner."

One who compares the extract from page 38 with this from page 47 can, so far as I can see, reconcile them only by one of these hypotheses: 1, that Mivart holds a wide river to afford proof of reality