Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 78.djvu/70

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perceptive faculties. They were able to paint as no modern artist can, because they studied nature closely and were seldom blinded or deafened by the critics. The ennui often appearing in a student following a course of didactic lectures is the result of the forced rumination upon the very few facts which he has been given opportunity to acquire through his own efforts. Modern education is still defective in training the sense-perceptions and the continuous meditation upon the few data furnished us by our own eyes and ears produces a state of mental fatigue, so that finally the tendency to reiteration becomes as annoying as the constant effort to count the figures on the wall-paper to the fever patient, or as the blind impulse compelling the child with St. Vitus' dance to touch each telegraph pole, as he walks near it. Even if we admit the truth of the dictum that there is nothing in the intellect which was not first in the senses, we are not guided by this idea in arranging courses of study. Boys are still forcibly carried through their school and college days in the same spirit in which personally conducted parties are rushed through the Vatican galleries. As the result of the so-called liberal education, the student frequently finds that he has actually become deficient in his sense perceptions and has acquired a faulty thought-mechanism; although possibly he finds some consolation in feeling that conventionalities have been satisfied by the completion of the grand educational tour. But sometimes, when it is too late, here and there one begins to appreciate that he has eyes and can not see, ears and can not hear.

Closely associated with the ideational faculties are the phenomena collectively designated as Will. The careful study of individuals, somewhat as practised by the skilled alienist, has taught us that a great deal may be accomplished in the training of the volitional powers. The old method employed to strengthen the will was similar in many respects to the practise indulged in of teaching children how to swim by throwing them into deep water. In a few cases only was the method successful. The remarkable advances in the study of the comparative physiology of the nervous system combined with the careful analysis of the conduct of individuals made by psychologists and alienists have shown conclusively that all our volitional acts are the expression of the activities of the brain.

The old axiom predicating the existence of free will is a pure fiction. When we speak of the will custom and usage have unfortunately led us to suppose that the volitional act is a phenomenon quite unrelated to other events in our mental life. As a matter of fact, the will-act is a very complex affair, depending upon a variety of conditions. Here is an example: It is a pleasant summer-day and as I sit at my desk and write, two conflicting impulses shoot up into my field of consciousness. One tendency is strong to get up, leave my work unfinished