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Popular Science Monthly/Volume 35/July 1889/Muscle and Mind

< Popular Science Monthly‎ | Volume 35‎ | July 1889

MUSCLE AND MIND.
By FRANCES EMILY WHITE, M. D.

THE fundamental characteristic of the animal world, as distinguished from the vegetable world, lies in its different relations to the energies of matter. Every animal is a mechanism for the liberation of energy previously stored up, in great part, in the tissues of plants which serve as food for these higher forms of life; and the quantity and kinds of energy liberated in any animal are determined mainly by the degree of development of the muscular and nervous systems, the other tissues and organs of the body being subservient to these two, which have been well styled the master tissues.

But the animal differs from the plant, not only in the power of liberating energy, and thus acting on the outside world; it is also differently affected by the outside world, the energies of which play upon its living tissues as the wind upon the strings of an Æolian harp; and the sensitive organism thrills under these influences with responsive sensations of greater or less diversity and intensity according to the variety and grade of development of its sensitive organs.

The muscular and the nervous tissues, upon which depend the distinctively animal functions of sensation and spontaneous movement, develop together, and their relations, both anatomical and physiological, are of the most intimate character.

Rudimentary nerve-threads are found in the Hydra; first recognized by Klinenberg, they were regarded by him as partly nervous and partly muscular; and the most primitive fibers positively identified as true nerves serve as pathways of communication from the sensitive surface to the rudimentary nerve-centers, and from these centers to the equally rudimentary muscles of the simple animals to which they belong. In short, the primitive nervous system is merely an immature apparatus for the production of sensations and the excitation of movements of the kind called "reflex," since they are excited by a stimulus transmitted from the surface of the body to the nerve-centers and thence reflected, as it were, to the muscles;[1] and a large proportion of the nerve-bundles which, with the centers, make up the nervous system of man, consists of fibers of communication between the muscles of the trunk and limbs and their stimulating centers in the brain; and since no muscle normally contracts except under tHe stimulus of a nervous impulse transmitted through a nerve-fiber from the central nervous system, my first thesis will be at once admitted, viz., that exercise of muscles necessarily involves exercise of their associated regions in the central nervous system, and that voluntary movements at least require the activity of certain areas of the brain.

It is admitted that the evolution of mind in the animal series and that of the bodily organs have kept pace with each other. The hemispheres of the brain increase in size and in complexity in the ascending zoölogical scale, the animal becoming mentalized in a direct ratio to the development of this part of the brain, which in man forms by far its largest subdivision. The doctrine, first definitely formulated by Fritsch and Hitzig, that the cortex of the brain contains special centers which govern definite groups of muscles,[2] is most significant in connection with this subject. They and their followers divide the brain cortex into two principal regions—one of sensory areas, which lie in the hinder part of the brain, and another of motor areas, which lie anteriorly; i. e., into a region engaged in receiving from the surface organs (the skin, the eye, etc.) impressions which excite the various sensations, and a region concerned in exciting and co-ordinating the movements of the body. The motor centers thus far definitely located are those which control the muscles of the face, arm, leg, and trunk. They lie on each side of one of the fissures of the brain,[3] in the order named from below upward—an arrangement which led Dr. Lauder-Brunton to suggest that it had occurred in accordance with the progressive evolution of the faculties, premising that the uppermost in position were the latest to be acquired and the highest functionally. Thus animals low in the scale seize their food with the mouth; the center for the face muscles was therefore earliest in order of development, as it is lowest in situation. Animals of a somewhat higher grade grasp their food with the anterior limbs—the next higher centers being those devoted to the arm-movements. Animals still further advanced in development have the power of running after their prey, using the posterior to assist the anterior limbs in accordance with the higher level of the centers concerned. Later still, the trunk muscles come to the assistance of the arms and legs in the all-important work of securing food, the first necessity. Coincident with these observations is the fact that the higher the center the more it requires education in the human being. The new-born infant has control of the muscles of the mouth to the extent of appropriating the food placed at its lips; yet, for the effective use of the arms and legs, mouths of training are necessary; while definite movements of the trunk, as in dancing, bowing, etc., are acquired much later in life. It is also a most significant fact that the center for the control of the various and complex movements concerned in speech is limited to the left side of the brain in right-handed persons—a few cases having been recorded in which disease of the corresponding locality on the right side of the brain has been followed by loss of speech in the left-handed[4]—implying that the more frequent and intelligent use of the muscles of the right hand and arm has had some connection with the development of the faculty of speech. This is corroborated by the fact that, among the lower animals, there is little if any difference in the use of the anterior limbs, as there is also absence of the faculty of speech—a factor of the highest importance in mental development.

Although the doctrine of localization has distinguished opponents, Prof. Goltz denying that either sensations or movements have any special centers in the brain, and the late George Henry Lewes opposing the idea to the extent of saying, "It is the whole man who feels and thinks," nevertheless the doctrine is gaining ground. At least two cases have been recorded of otherwise normal individuals in whom a congenital absence of the left hand and a part of the arm was accompanied by a rudimentary condition of the corresponding convolution on the right side of the brain, showing that the building up of these motor areas in the brain is largely dependent on muscular exercise during the period of growth. That the maintenance of their nutrition in the adult is also to some extent dependent on muscular exercise is made probable by the fact that wasting of the corresponding convolution has been found in a few instances after amputation of a limb. Removal of the brain, slice by slice, in the lower animals is followed by a corresponding reduction both of intelligence and of power of voluntary movements which disappear together in about an equal degree; and every observer knows that in many cases of brain disease intelligence and the power of voluntary movement alike suffer in proportion to the extent of degradation of brain substance. There is also no more conspicuous feature of idiocy than its accompanying feeble, irregular, and uncoordinated movements. Just what relations exist between the motor areas of the brain and general intelligence is not a matter for dogmatic assertion; but that these centers form a part of the intellectual machinery is undoubted, and the facts cited, without reference to theories, may be regarded as proving my second thesis, viz., that the systematic and regular use of the voluntary muscles of the body must have an important influence on the development of the brain, and hence also of the mind of which the brain is the organ.

Whatever differences of opinion may exist as to certain minor points in the physiology of the brain, all agree that it is organized on the same general plan as are the lower parts of the nervous system, and as are the entire nervous systems of those simple animals whose functions consist in feeble sensations which arouse equally feeble movements; and as there are no abrupt transitions either in the animal series or in individual development, so in the nervous system of man there is no abrupt introduction of mental conditions of a kind totally different from those which prevail at a lower plane of animal life, but rather the foundations of all mental processes are to be found in simple reflex actions. The mental building material is, therefore, derived from movements as well as from sensations; and a sensation and its associated movement may bo said to constitute the psychical unit of the whole mental life, as a sensory and motor nerve with their connecting center constitute the structural unit of the entire nervous system.

It is argued by Prof. Bain[5] that it is by the experience of muscular exertion that we obtain our first real knowledge of the external world—a "not-me" as opposed to the "me" of passive sensation. Mr. Herbert Spencer also describes our fundamental conception of matter as of something which offers resistance.[6] The different degrees of resistance met with from the "not-me" calling out different degrees of muscular effort, there arises a sense of discrimination which is the beginning of knowledge.

The duration of a muscular act also leaves its impression as a distinct element of consciousness; and the continuance of the mental state which accompanies this duration becomes a measure of time, the idea of which is thus incorporated in our mental make-up from the very dawn of consciousness.

The origin of the perception of space is similarly traced, in part at least, to movements; especially the idea of linear extension, which is greater or less in any given case according to the degree of contraction involved in moving the limbs through space, taken in connection with the time occupied. It is, then, largely by these fundamental modes of what may be termed muscular discrimination that we acquire our ideas of matter, of time and of space—the classic triad of "innate ideas" of the intuitionists. These supposed innate ideas being, however, susceptible of a psycho-physical explanation, we are bound by the law of parsimony to accept it.[7]

It thus appears that the brain has a twofold connection with the muscular machinery of the body; that it not only supplies the stimulus required for the production of voluntary movements, necessitating a corresponding activity on its own part, but that it is stimulated in turn by the active muscles; since every contraction is a separate occasion for the return of responsive impulses to the brain, by means of which the corresponding centers there are informed of the degree of energy put forth, and the extent of the resulting movement. Voluntary movements are thus associated with three distinct kinds of consciousness: 1. That which accompanies the outgoing impulse from the brain—the so-called "sensation of innervation."[8] 2. That excited by contraction of muscles through impulses arising within the muscle itself and thence transmitted to the brain—the true muscular sensation in which the muscle acts the part of a special sense-organ. 3. That produced by the resulting movement, also due to impulses sent to the brain—perhaps from the surfaces of the bones as they move against each other at the joints, or from the stretched and compressed tissues, especially the tendons in which many "Pacinian corpuscles" are found.

The brain is thus infused with a knowledge of the work done by the muscles, and hence of the external world of matter upon which the body acts by means of its muscles. These muscular tuitions—so-called intuitions—become permanent constituents of the mental life; and my third thesis is to the effect that the muscles play a rôle in the development of mind similar to that which belongs to the other special sense-organs—the eye, the ear, etc.

The dependence of intellect upon sensation was recognized by Aristotle in his famous dictum, "Nothing in the intellect not first in the senses";[9] and whatever the differences of view which divide the schools of psychology or individual psychologists as to the origin of our ideas of matter, time, and space, and whatever the real nature of the so-called "muscle-sense," all agree that the special sense-organs are the chief avenues of approach to the

brain, and that the sensations excited through these organs constitute the raw material of the mental life—touch, hearing and sight being recognized as par excellence intellectual senses. Now, it is a most significant fact, from the point of view of my third thesis, that the activities of these three senses in particular involve muscular co-operation as an essential accessory; and the profound relations which exist between many of the mental processes and muscular action are at least adumbrated in certain experimental observations by Wundt upon the eye. He has shown, for example, that vertical distances appear greater than equal horizontal distances in the proportion of 4·8 to 4, and that the same proportion exists between the muscular forces which move the eye vertically and those which move it horizontally; that the minimum of movement of the eye capable of exciting consciousness of contraction and the smallest perceptible distance are in exact agreement, both answering to an angle of one sixtieth of a degree; that we are able to distinguish a difference in length of two lines if it amount to one fiftieth of the entire length of the shorter one—the difference in movement of the eyes in this case being also one fiftieth of their entire linear movement.[10]

These relations can not be mere coincidences. Ideas of the size and distance of objects are also attributable in part to the degree of muscular action involved; for the nearer an object to the eye, the greater the muscular exertion required in converging the axes of the balls upon the object, and the greater the tax upon the muscles of accommodation; and it is not the visual sensation alone which gives the idea of distance, although the degree of distinctness, no doubt, has a marked influence, but the muscular sensations excited by the movements of accommodation and convergence must also contribute to the result. A mere allusion to the immense importance of visual perceptions in our mental furnishings will sufficiently indicate the bearings of these facts on the relations of muscular activity to mental activity and growth. To the significance of the muscles as organs of the muscular sense must then be added that which is due to the existence of a muscular element in other sense-organs.

Since movements, no less than sensations, play a conspicuous part in the acquisition of knowledge of the external world, it follows that ideas are a revival of ideal movements as well as of ideal sensations. My fourth thesis is, therefore, that ideas have no special separate centers in the brain, but result from the excitation of those areas which have taken part in the original acquisition of ideas, viz., the sensory and motor centers. These two kinds of centers, with the inhibitory centers and numerous connecting fibers, make up the convolutions of the brain and constitute the physical basis of the mental life.[11]

The voluntary or spontaneous excitation of ideas is thus to be attributed to the activity of the psycho-motor centers, while the inhibitory centers, since they play an important part in attention and concentration of thought, are the seat of the higher faculties; and intellectual power probably bears a direct ratio to the development of these centers. By observations and experiments similar to those employed in localizing the sensory and motor areas, the inhibitory centers have been localized in the frontal lobes of the brain. The development of these lobes, as compared with other parts of the brain, is conspicuous in man; as a rule, also, great intellectual power is associated with great frontal development.[12]

The biological doctrine that automatism is a property of protoplasm supports the theory of the originally spontaneous character of the so-called voluntary movements, leading up to the view that volition is an underived quality of mind; but it is a biological fact that muscles and nerves appear on the stage of animal life together in the form of a reflex apparatus, and that the primordial movements executed by these specialized forms of protoplasm are reflex; my fifth thesis is, therefore, that the germs of volition are to be found in movements; that volition, so far from providing an original stimulus to the muscular activities, has itself grown out of these activities—the voluntary movements developing secondarily from reflex ones.

Movements in themselves excite agreeable sensations which prompt to repetition; such as prove injurious, however, become a source of pain which tends to their suppression—that is, to inhibition; volition, therefore, develops under the stimulus of pleasure combined with the repressive influence of pain, both of which result from the action of muscles. The will is thus disciplined and directed to such activities as are useful to the organism.

Prof. Meynert describes volitional impulses as due to the [revived] perception or memory of sensations of innervation. By means of association these memories acquire sufficient intensity themselves to excite movements which thus starting from the brain appear to be spontaneous; their character will, however, depend on what has been previously registered in the motor centers.[13] Although the brain-centers concerned in the exercise of voluntary restraint (the inhibitory centers), primarily stimulated to activity by the pain resulting from injurious movements, do not expend their influence directly upon muscles, they may, neverthetheless, be regarded as a part of the motor machinery, since they act on other centers which are motor; and, by the associated action of these two kinds of centers, the will gradually acquires a real though limited control over the voluntary muscles.

Volition, whatever its origin, involves a state of excitation of the brain and stimulation of body and mind. Opposition only serves to increase its energy (as the load in "the nerve-muscle preparation"[14] augments the force of the contraction), and under excitement intellectual as well as muscular work is more easily done. Emotional excitement, if not of too absorbing a nature, promotes intellectual activity, but the latter is itself accompanied by a peculiar exaltation of feeling which is a source of the keenest psychical satisfaction.

Stimulation, then, either sensory or volitional, is a necessary antecedent of activity—in common parlance, its cause. Prof. Bain advocates the idea that stimulation is the sole cause of pleasure, the nutritive functions by keeping up the vital energy enabling stimulation to be carried to certain lengths before degenerating into pain. If we fall short of the pain limit, we fail of the satisfactions which flow from the conscious expenditure of energy to the full degree of which the organism is capable. If we exceed this limit, we pay the penalty of physical degeneracy and resulting mental decrepitude with the accompanying falling off of activity, and hence of pleasure. Degeneration also follows from disuse—that is, the neglect of stimulation, and consequent inaction.

Sir William Hamilton, following Aristotle, defines pleasure as "the reflex of the spontaneous and unimpeded exertion of power of whose energy we are conscious." But exercise of power occurs as a result of stimulation. The larger statement of Prof. Bain, therefore, includes that of Hamilton; and, since the spontaneous exertion of power with the accompanying state of consciousness depends on excitation of motor centers, both these statements are involved in my sixth thesis, viz., that movements are the primary source of pleasure and pain which, in the experience school of psychology, are recognized as the basis of the entire mental life.

Mr. James Ward[15] regards the reflex movements immediately expressive of pleasure and pain as primordial, the voluntary movements being elaborated out of these. But movements occur presumably below the plane of consciousness—e. g., in vegetable protoplasm. We may therefore conclude that, in the developing animal series, the lowest members of which are indistinguishable from plants, pleasure and pain gradually arose out of movements, thus leading to the development of volition.

Lucretius says:[16] "It is delightful to stand on the sea-shore in a high wind and watch the dangers of those who are on the deep; it is equally pleasant to behold from an elevated station a battle raging in the plains below, because it is naturally agreeable to witness those misfortunes from which yourself are free; but far more pleasant still is it to occupy wisdom's heights, and from thence to look down on others groping and wandering in search of the true light."[17] Although the want of sympathetic feeling shown in this poetic flight is shocking to the altruism of the nineteenth century, the idea is nevertheless in entire harmony with Hamilton's definition of pleasure, since consciousness of power naturally belongs to a position of superiority; and the feeling here disclosed undoubtedly constitutes an important element in human satisfactions. It is not always necessary that superiority should be demonstrated in order to the securing of its legitimate effects; a powerful mastiff scorns to use his strength against an inferior antagonist; the mere consciousness of ability to exterminate the puppy with a single shake satisfies the demands of his nature.

Pleasure, originating in physical activity and reaching a far higher phase in the doing of intellectual work, culminates in the supreme consciousness of power which attends the moral actions. As pointed out by Mr. Stanton Coit.[18] "The conscious fulfillment of duty is attended by a feeling of happiness which sometimes takes the form of deep inward peace, and sometimes of gladness and exultation, like that of a victor." Thus the ancient heathen poet and the modern moralist, although separated by the vast ocean of sympathy which lies between the opposite poles of egoism and altruism, meet nevertheless on the common soil of a common human nature.

Activity, then, carries with it its own reward; it is in itself an end; and education, once almost exclusively directed to the immediate cultivation of the mind, is gradually extending to all the activities of the complex human being—the physical and moral as well as the intellectual. The general methods by which the full measure of development of which human nature is susceptible may be secured are. I believe, indicated in the psycho-physiological facts and principles of which I have here attempted a brief outline. Experimental proofs of the efficiency of these methods are also forthcoming. Among them, perhaps, none are more convincing

PSM V35 D406 A little boy at the ages of six and eighteen months.jpg
Fig. 1.—Age, Six Months. Fig. 2.—Age, Eighteen Months.

than the results secured in the modern training schools for idiots, in which difficult field the late Dr. Edward Séguin, of New York,PSM V35 D406 Same boy at the age of seven years.jpgFig. 3.—Age, Seven Years. distinguished himself not only as an investigator of remarkable insight and originality, but as a humanitarian of a high order.

At the meeting of the British Association in 1879, Dr. Séguin read a paper entitled "The Training of an Idiotic Hand,"[19] in which are given the details of his developmental method of teaching in the case of an idiot boy. The training described was applied mainly to the hands, over which the feeble will of the child had almost no control. He was unable to put either his fingers or hands in any given required attitude, although movements of great rapidity and considerable force were involuntarily executed, mainly from the wrist. The sense of touch was also almost wholly wanting. After a year's training (the detailed account of which is most instructive) he is described as having learned to help and amuse himself, and to refrain from biting himself, and from striking his friends, although the hands are still subject, at times, to involuntary movements. The sense of touch has developed to the degree of recognizing about one hundred objects by their shape and texture alone, without the aid of sight. He has also acquired consciousness of the ordinary variations of temperature of water, food, etc. He has been taught to recognize the typical geometrical forms, and to cut them out of paper. He has visited the florists daily, and learned to know and name about sixty different kinds of flowers, all fragrant, thus appealing to the brain through still another sense. This development of the special senses and of volition was accompanied by a marked decline, not only of uncontrolled movements but of outbursts of temper, which had been conspicuous.

At the end of a year's training, concentrated mainly on the hands, the special training of the eyes was begun, the history of which is given in a second paper.[20]

There was a lack of control over the movements of the eyes quite comparable to that which had existed in the case of the

PSM V35 D407 Same boy at the ages of eight and nine years.jpg
Fig. 4.—Age, Eight Years. Fig. 5.—Age, Nine Years.

hands. The boy was unable voluntarily either to hold his eyes still or to direct them toward any particular object—rapid oscillations alternating with periods of fixation upward and to one side. In the training of these refractory organs the improved hands were made to give most effective assistance. "What words can not do," says Dr. Séguin, "the hand can; viz., it can present objects to the eye at the proper distance, at the proper opportunity, and with the proper degree of insistence and pertinacity, even following the eye in its wanderings till it has captured and captivated the regard, . . . keeping the eye at bay, or leading it away from its empty fixedness."

At the end of the second year of training, "the vibrations of the eyes have diminished, his voluntary look has become more steady, and his automatic one less riveted." From the study of objects and movements this no longer idiotic boy was led on to the acquirement of language. At the beginning of training he could repeat only the last word of what was said to him; at the end of the second year he had acquired an accurate though limited vocabulary. Five portraits of the child accompany the reports of this experiment—the first (Fig. 1) taken at six months of age, showing normal development; the second (Fig. 2) at eighteen months (after convulsions), in which idiocy is apparent;[21] the third (Fig. 3) at seven years, in which the characteristics of idiocy are well marked; the fourth (Fig. 4) at the end of a year's training of the hands, and the fifth (Fig. 5) after a year's training of the eyes. These portraits testify, in a language far more forcible than that of words, to the efficiency of Dr. Séguin's method. The improvement—physical, mental, and moral—as reflected in the last portrait, is most remarkable.[22] The entire history of this experiment is a history of the triumph of the physiological method of education[23]—the only rational method, and as applicable to the sound as to the unsound body and brain. To the physiologist, at least, it must have the value of a complete demonstration of the supreme importance of physical culture in both mental and moral development.

Corroborative testimony of equal or even greater importance may be found in a recent report of the New York State Reformatory at Elmira, to whose resident physician. Dr. Hamilton D. Wey, belongs the distinction of having proposed and carried out the details of an experiment[24] for testing the effects of physical culture on the mental and moral capacities of an inferior order of adult criminals. Dr. Wey selected for this experiment twelve men ranging from nineteen to twenty-nine years of age, five of whom had been convicted of burglary, four of grand larceny, and three of crimes against the person.

Three of them had been total-abstinence men; eight had indulged in alcoholic drinks occasionally, and one habitually. Several of them confessed to intemperate parents; one had an insane and one an epileptic mother. Many of these men had faces indicative of criminal tendencies; the heads of two were suggestive of idiocy; and among the entire number there was not a face which did not express either mental hebetude or moral obliquity, or both combined.

During the previous two years these men had made no appreciable progress in school-work, seeming incapable of prolonged mental efforts. One of them could neither read nor write; another found great difficulty in doing either; and, although four of them understood the steps necessary for working out a problem in long division, they could never obtain a correct answer, while the remaining eight were "stranded Upon the shoals of rudimentary arithmetic from notation to simple division." Some of them were unable even to name the State or country from which they had come. It will be admitted that the proposed test of the value of physical culture was of the severest possible kind.

The physical discipline to which they were subjected consisted in (1) hot baths—three weekly, the Turkish and common bath alternating; (2) massage—kneading of the muscles, passive motions of the joints, and friction of the entire surface; (3) physical exercise—manual drill, free gymnastics and exercise with dumbbells ranging progressively from three to eight pounds in weight; (4) the substitution of a special dietary for the regular prison fare. The experiment was continued during live months—long enough to demonstrate the value of the method, but not to determine the full measure of success probably attainable by these means. At the end of this period, nine of the eleven men then living had risen from the third or refractory to the intermediate grade, the remaining two having merely maintained their original standing in this grade.

During the six months immediately preceding the experiment, the average marking for shop-work, school-work, and conduct had been forty-six per cent. During the experiment, the average for school-work, previously lowest of all, rose to seventy-four per cent, the conduct improving at about an equal rate. Shop-work was discontinued, as the special training was thought to secure enough muscular exercise. During the six months following the term of the experiment, the average marking of the men in the three departments of shop-work, school-work, and conduct rose to seventy-one per cent as compared with forty-six per cent for the six months preceding the experiment. At the end of this period Dr. Wey reported[25] that "although the men had been remanded to the former routine of prison life, mental development was still going on; six of the number had reached the first grade in schoolwork, and two of the remaining five had every prospect of soon doing so."

Physical improvement was marked; their skins had acquired the softness and smoothness of childhood (several having had some form of skin-disease), and their biceps muscles had become worthy of the traditional blacksmith. Their former stooping attitude, slow movements, and shuffling gait had given place to an appearance of alertness and vigor; their faces also had developed an expression of comparative brightness and intelligence. In manual labor the advance was not so pronounced as in other directions, though improvement in this department was marked; but the stride in mental and moral development was almost beyond belief. Dr. Wey, in closing his account of this most interesting test of a new method in prison discipline, says, "I regard my experiment in physical culture as showing that something more than mere brawn can be accomplished by muscular exercise, properly directed."

Inquiries extending over a period of forty years, made of about three hundred members of the Cambridge and Oxford University crews, instituted by Dr. Maclaren, director of the University Gymnasium at Oxford, have elicited facts which may be accepted as experimental evidence of the value of physical training in a class of cases in which the conditions of life are most favorable, hence affording a test from which practically every element except the purely muscular one is eliminated. The benefits experienced by the members of these crews are stated to be an increase of stamina, of energy, enterprise, and executive power, and of fortitude in endurance of trials, privations, and disappointments—"a goodly list of benefits bearing on the mental and moral as conspicuously as on the physical side of the question," says Dr. Maclaren, "for, in the struggle for existence, failure is more likely to result from inability to endure trials and disappointments than from merely physical weakness—the statistics of suicide bearing out this statement."[26]

The testimony obtained from this source shows that the advantages of physical training are not limited to the idiotic, the ignorant, and the criminal classes, the conditions of whose lives have been especially unfavorable to a normal symmetrical development, but that they belong alike to all; and these widely different experiments, considered together, are calculated to convince the most skeptical mind of the soundness of the several foregoing theses based on certain facts of the development and physiology of the muscular and nervous systems, and on certain principles of psycho-physics and psychology, to which reference has been made. This experimental evidence, having been drawn from observations on the extremes of human capacity and character (exemplified in the young idiot, the adult criminal, and the university student, during the intermediate developmental period), may be accepted as virtually covering the entire ground of human nature in its various phases, and therefore as conclusive of the universal applicability of systematic physical culture in education. The cases cited show that in the processes of mental and moral development the muscles, as well as the purely sensory mechanisms, play a conspicuous part; and, while the period of growth is undoubtedly most favorable to this work. Dr. Wey's experiment shows that even the adult brain and mind may be improved by the various procedures included under the head of physical culture.

That health has an important bearing upon morals is undoubted.[27] Count Tolstoï, through the lips of one of his dramatic impersonations, says, "I must have some physical exercise or my character will entirely spoil";[28] and it is probable that not even the finest examples of human development have attained a height so great, either intellectual or moral, as to be beyond betterment by these means. Descartes testified to the importance of attention to the physical nature in saying, "If it be possible to perfect the human race, it is in medicine that we must seek the means"—employing the term "medicine" in its broad sense as a science devoted to the care of the body. The curative value of physical exercise has long been recognized. Boerhaave said that most of our fashionable diseases might be cured mechanically instead of chemically, by climbing a bitter-wood tree or by chopping it down, rather than by swallowing a disgusting decoction of its leaves and bark, Asclepiades was accustomed to prescribing a course of gymnastics for nearly every form of bodily ailment, Tolstoï also proposes to enrich medicine with a new term, "labor-cure," as a sovereign specific for nervous affections.Loc. cit.

We have found that activity is in itself an end. The excitement which attends voluntary muscular exercise is a natural stimulant in which all can afford to indulge, since, unlike the artificial stimulants, it adds to the stock by promoting the nutrition of the entire body. Voluntary exercise also tends to develop the general power of volition (including that of self-restraint), which, as we have seen, first appears on the stage of animal life in connection with movements.

But emotions and thoughts as well as movements may be inhibited and brought under control; and it is in this region of mentality that volition reaches its highest phase. Whosoever has attained those "shining table-lands" of human character where force, courage, endurance, and a due degree of altruism perennially abide is in his own person an apotheosis of power, the power whose beginnings we have traced to the muscular activities.

It then appears that in the twofold nature of man the physical and the psychical exist not merely in the relation of simple contiguity, but rather as involved in "the one and indivisible whole" of human existence, and that the psychical—the so-called spiritual—qualities are developed through the physical agents known as the bodily organs, by means of the activities which constitute the functions of those organs.

Said the great Spinoza, whose far-reaching vision penetrated depths beyond the ken of the common mind: "We do not desire or strive after anything because we think it good; we think it good because we are moved to strive after and desire it."

 

  1. The term "reflex" is a misnomer, as the action of the nerve-center is not the mere reflection of an impulse received from the periphery. The word is used to indicate that the exciting cause of activity of the center arises outside itself, and not, as in so-called "automatic" action, within itself.
  2. Known as the doctrine of localization.
  3. The fissure of Rolando, anterior to the fissure of Sylvius which separates the motor from the sensory areas.
  4. Küssmaul.
  5. See "The Senses and the Intellect," by Prof. Alexander Bain, M. A.
  6. See "First Principles."
  7. The view advocated by Prof. W. James (sec "Mind," 1881), that all sensations have an underived spatial element, though opposed to that of the exclusively muscular origin of the space idea, does not conflict with the general scope of my argument, since, as will appear later, the more important special sense-organs involve a muscular element.
  8. Not a true sensation, since it starts from the center. These sensations are described by Prof. Meynert as dependent on the memory of originally reflex movements. See "Psychiatry," by Theodor Meynert, M. D.
  9. Said by Schwegler to be falsely attributed to Aristotle; the following citations, however, from Grotc's account of the psychology of Aristotle show that this aphorism is in harmony with his philosophy: "Without the visible phantasm of objects seen and touched, or the audible phantasm of words heard and remembered, the 'nous' [intellect] in human beings would be a nullity."—"The fundamenta of intellect are sense and hearing." Many other excerpts of similar purport might be given.
  10. See "German Psychology of Today," Ribot.
  11. "Thought consists of a certain elaboration of sensory and motor presentations, and has no content apart from them. Article "Psychology," "Encyclopædia Britannica," Mr. James Ward.
  12. See "Functions of the Brain," by David Forrier, M D., F. R. S.
  13. Op cit.
  14. The calf-muscle, with its nerves, taken from the leg of a frog. Within certain limits, the heavier the weight attached to the muscle the more powerfully it contracts when the nerve is stimulated.
  15. Loc. cit.
  16. Quoted by B. Cattell in "Are Animals mentally happy?" "Nineteenth Century," August, 1886.
  17. It was one of the teachings of a certain system of theology, now happily nearly obsolete, that the spectacle of the tortures of the damned would constitute one of the elements of heavenly bliss.
  18. See "Mind," No. xliii, "The Final Aim of Moral Action."
  19. See "Archives of Medicine," October, 1879.
  20. See "Archives of Medicine," December, 1880.
  21. The fact that idiocy often follows convulsions has a significant bearing on the subject of this paper, since the convulsions of childhood are generally the result of reflex over stimulation of the motor centers of the brain from excessive irritation of the sensory centers brought about by some severe disturbance at the periphery, as in the convulsions of teething.
  22. We are indebted to the kindness of the Messrs. Putnam for permission to reproduce these portraits.
  23. This includes all that comes under the head of manual training.
  24. See Annual Report of Board of Managers of the New York State Reformatory, January, 1887.
  25. See "Science," June 17, 1887.
  26. See Dr. Maclaren's work on training.
  27. See author's article, "Hygiene as a Basis of Morals," "Popular Science Monthly," May, 1887.
  28. See "Anna Karenina."