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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 61.djvu/298

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POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

intellectual impulse. Its very popularity betokens its lack of profundity, and its delight in simple formulae is characteristic of that mediocrity of thought which has much more ambition than real power and accepts simplicity of formularization as equivalent to evidence. It would seem stronger too, if it were less defended as a faith. Strong partizans make feeble philosophers.

Consciousness ought to be regarded as a biological phenomenon, which the biologist has to investigate in order to increase the number of verifiable data concerning it. In that way, rather than by speculative thought, is the problem of consciousness to be solved, and it is precisely because biologists are beginning to study consciousness that it is becoming, as I said in opening, the newest problem of science.

The biologist must necessarily become more and more the supreme arbiter of all science and philosophy, for human knowledge is itself a biological function which will become comprehensible just in the measure that biology progresses and brings knowledge of man, both by himself and through comparison with all other living things. We must look to biologists for the mighty generalizations to come rather than to the philosophers, because great new thoughts are generated more by the accumulation of observations than by deep meditation. To know, observe. Observe more and more, and in the end you will know. A generalization is a mountain of observations; from the summit the outlook is broad. The great observer climbs to the outlook, while the mere thinker struggles to imagine it. The best that can be achieved by sheer thinking on the data of ordinary human experience we have already as our glorious inheritance. The principal contribution of science to human progress is the recognition of the value of accumulating data which are found outside of human experience.

Twenty-three years ago, at Saratoga, I presented before the meeting of this Association—which I then attended for the first time—a paper, 'On the Conditions to be filled by a Theory of Life,' in which I maintained that, before we can form a theory of life, we must settle what are the phenomena to be explained by it. So now, in regard to consciousness it may be maintained that, for the present, it is more important to seek additional positive knowledge than to hunt for ultimate interpretations. We welcome therefore especially the younger science of experimental psychology, which, it is gratifying to note, has made a more auspicious start in America than in any other country. It completes the circle of the biological sciences. It is the department of biology to which properly belongs the problem of consciousness. The results of experimental psychology are still for the most part future. But I shall endeavor to show that we may obtain some valuable preliminary notions concerning consciousness from our present biological knowledge.