Open main menu

Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 73.djvu/144

This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.
compelled to make contrary movements. Thus the same thread runs through all material phenomena. The human mind is nothing but the highest development on our earth of the mental processes which universally animate and move nature.[1]

Fechner had worked out this fundamental theory ere he arrived at his psychological results. We find glimmerings of it so soon as 1835, in the attractive "Little Book on Life After Death," in the tract "On the Highest Good" (1846); enlarged views in "Nanna, or the Soullife of Plants" (1848); while the system appears full-fledged in "Zend-Avesta, or the Things of Heaven and the Hereafter" (1851); in 1861 he returned to it in his book, "On the Soul Question," occasioned by contemporary materialism, and in "The Three Motives and Grounds of Belief"; and in 1879 he reaffirmed and restated the position in the remarkable volume entitled "The Day View and the Night View." The essence of his teaching may be summed up in the thought that the material or external world is a half-truth, a concession to the sensuous, rather than an explanation of the psychical;

However complicated our brains may be, and however much we may feel inclined to attach to such a complexity the highest mental properties, the world is unspeakably more complex, since it is a complication of all the complications contained in it, the brains among them. Why not, therefore, attach still higher mental properties to this greater complexity? The form and structure of the heavens seem simple only when we consider the large masses and not their details and concatenation. The heavenly bodies are not crude homogeneous lumps; and the most diverse and complicated relations of light and gravity obtain between them. That, however, the plurality in the world is also grouped, comprehended, and organized into unity does not contradict the thought that it is also comprehended into a corresponding mental unity, but is in harmony with the same.[2]

Consequently, the physical symbolizes the psychical. They are two faces of a single existence. Human research may, therefore, deal with the one or the other, and attain, as it has attained, great success. But the real problem centers in the relation between the two. Of this, physiological psychology is the science. You can, accordingly, pursue it quâ science, but you must never forget the larger setting in which it finds itself.

Proceeding to the psychology, then, note at once that Fechner envisages the problem rather as a physicist than as a physiologist. So, he suffers from his limitations, but gains in precision. Soul and body being a single existence, it is practicable to investigate their mutual functioning and to state the results as laws of nature, which, in turn, are no more than assemblages of observations concerning phenomenal

  1. Cf. "Die mechanische-physiologische Theorie d. Abstammungslehre" (1884).
  2. "Ideen zu einer Schöpfungsgeschichte," p. 106.