Imágenes de páginas




Puiñan facobi

[ocr errors]



None can appreciate the weight attaching to the words of a distinguished member of an honored profession, as well as the younger members of that same profession. They know something of the toil needed to achieve a worthy reputation, and of the talent implied by the capacity for toil. They know how to discriminate between the careful opinions of mature and deliberate judgment, and the headlong assertions of rash busy-bodies and amateurs. They understand, because they feel, the inevitable esoterism that must persist at the kernel of all democracies, unless these degenerate into mere rabble and intellectual mob: they are the last, therefore, to maintain that one person's word is as good as another's ; that common sense is competent to solve all questions ; that freedom of thought means the right of all to think as they please. Knowing, on the contrary, the extreme complexity of all problems, and the facility with which the most upright judgment may become warped in meditating upon them, they are prepared to exact a loug apprenticeship in thinking from those who assume the right to think in public, and a minute familiarity with facts from those who undertake to defend any opinion in regard to them. Whenever a writer, by previous and just reputation, offers conclusive proof of such apprenticeship, familiarity, and ability to judge, his conclusions must be examined with care, and disputed, if at all, with respect.

Yet such examination is as essential to the interests of truth as is the just ascendency that may be acquired by repeated success in the difficult task of investigation. Those who reject it as superfluous or impertinent, or who decry opposition as shallow obstinacy, are always those least competent to measure the weight of arguments on either side, and whose approval of authority must be as valueless as the dissent from authority certainly may be.

The singular avidity with which the press and the public have seized upon the theme discussed in Dr. Clarke's book on Sex in Education, is a proof that this appeals to many interests besides those of scientific truth. The public cares little about science, except in so far as its conclusions can be made to intervene in behalf of some moral, religious, or social controversy.

In the present case, a delicate physiological problem has become as popular as theories on epigenesis, spontaneous generation, or Darwinian evolution, and for an analogous reason. As the latter are expected to decide in the doctrines of natural or revealed religion, so the former is supposed to have a casting vote in regard to the agitating claims for the extension of new powers to

On the one hand, the inspiration of scripture, on the other, the admission of women to Harvard, is at stake, and it is these that lend the peculiar animus and animation to the discussion. In both polemics, arguments are not accepted because they are demonstrated, but enlisted because they are useful; ranged with others recruited from the most distant quarters, with nothing in cominon but the regiment into which they are all thrust, to be hurled against a cominon enemy.


A remarkable change has taken place in the tone of habitual remark on the capacities and incapacities of women. Formerly, they were denied the privileges of an intellectual education, on the ground that their natures were too exclusively animal to require it. To-day, the same education is still withheld, but on the new plea that their animal nature is too imperfectly developed to enable them to avail themselves of it. Formerly, psychology was widely separated from physiology, and the study of the inind began and ended with demonstrations of the immense gulf by which it was separated from the body. Today, psychology has become a section of physiology, and mental philosophers busy theinselves with searching out in all its details, the close dependence of the mind upon the body. Insanity has become an inflammation of the cortical substance of the brain : idiocy results from a fætal meningitis: genius is a form of scrofula closely allied to mania : in sleep, the brain loses blood, in intellectual excitement, attracts blood; in the illumination of the death-bed, or the delirium of drunkenness, the circulation through the brain is quickened ; in torpidity, melancholy, stupidity, the circulation slackens and stagnates.

With this tendency, whose legitimacy we are certainly far from disputing, it is inevitable that the old doctrine of the mental inferiority of women should be defended, if at all, on a new basis ; a basis organic, structural, physiological, hence incontrovertible; on an analysis, not of her reasoning faculties, her impulses, her emotions, her logic, her ignorance, but of her digestion, her nerves, her muscles, her circulation. It is inevitable, therefore, that

« AnteriorContinuar »