Imágenes de páginas

modifications of the brain. If we are automatists, we may

if our brains permit us continue to talk about arousing the aspirations of our pupils, stimulating their interests, making appeals to their wills, to their sense of duty or of honor. But if we are bold enough to accept the logical consequences of our theory, we shall be sure that such appeals either accomplish nothing or that they do not operate as they seem to do. We shall be sure that they derive their entire significance from the fact that in some inscrutable way they produce a peculiar effect upon the body

-- not through the agency of the mind. The sentinel on guard, fighting against the drowsiness that threatens to overcome him, utters the word “duty” and straightway every sense becomes alert, every muscle tense, through attention. If automatism be true, how are we to explain this fact ? Are we to say that it was the desire of the sentinel not to betray his trust that enabled him to overcome his drowsiness? That would impute efficiency to consciousness, that a state of his mind caused something, while the theory maintains that what he does is due to his brain alone.

Ordinary Facts Incapable of Clear Statement from the Standpoint of Automatism. - From the point of view of automatism the fact is not only inexplicable, but the very attempt to state it involves one in a labyrinth of obscurities. “The sentinel on guard” is a phrase which embodies contradictory ideas. “The sentinel " is nothing but a group of atoms every change in which takes place according to material laws. But “on guard” expresses purpose, and matter has no purposes to serve.

Blind matter obeying mechanical laws is the only causal agency in the universe. “ The sentinel on guard," then, means for automatism nothing more than that the aggregate of material atoms which constitute the sentinel has, in obedience to certain mechanical laws, undergone such changes as to result in the body's taking a position in a certain place and in an erect form. That the body holds a gun in its hands, that the gun will be used against all enemies, are inexplicable facts, according to automatism. To say that they are due to purpose would be to ignore all the achievements of science from Empedocles to Herbert Spencer, and nayvely to suppose with the old Greek philosopher that the reason why a leaf falls to the ground is because of its desire to rest on the bosom of the earth.

The phrase "fighting the drowsiness ” is just as contradictory from the standpoint of automatism. To the sentinel who foolishly supposes that he is something more than a group of material atoms the phrase has a meaning. To him it signifies a struggle between himself and purely material conditions. “Drowsiness" he regards as the effect of his bodily state, and "fighting” as the effort which he, the conscious being, makes to overcome it. But, according to automatism, "fighting” and “drowsiness" represent nothing but material changes taking place in material things. We are again confronted with the same dilemma: the necessity of imputing purpose to that which, according to the theory, cannot entertain it, or of admitting that the facts, or what seem to be the facts, of ordinary life are incapable of being stated in terms of the theory.

Obviously every statement in the sentence is condemned to the same fate. “Every muscle becomes tense through attention " has a meaning only on the supposition that the mind has an influence on the body. Accepting automatism, we must describe the fact set forth in the sentence as follows: In the functioning of that purely physical machine which constitutes the sentinel an exceedingly complex group of changes in that part of the machine called the brain has led to equally complex changes in the nerves controlling the action of the muscles of the various parts of the machine, with the result that it takes an erect position in a certain place. This machine is subject to two highly complex groups of internal influences: a part of the atoms of its brain is undergoing changes which tend to produce such an effect on certain nerves and, through them, on certain muscles as will make an erect position of the machine impossible; another part of the atoms of the brain is undergoing such changes as tend to counteract the changes of the first. The two sets of forces are almost perfectly balanced until somehow those brain changes stimulate the nerves controlling the tongue in such a way as to cause it to utter the word “duty," and straightway the nerve changes which stimulate the muscles that keep the body in an erect position become intensified and those having an opposing tendency become weakened. But this

description,” it is evident, takes no account of the only characteristic features of the fact. That which sets it off from a mere happening in the external world, like the fall of a leaf from a tree, is the purpose which stupid common sense imputes to the sentinel ; but automatism leaves no place for purpose.

We say the soldier did his duty; we might with equal reason give the same praise to a tree which falls to the ground just in time to crush the skull of a notorious criminal. As the tree falls because it has to, so the tongue of the soldier wagged because it had to: each obeyed purely physical laws and produced in turn a purely physical result.

According to Automatism, Physical Causes Alone Account for All We Do. — Of course, if automatism be true, teacher as well as pupil, writer as well as reader, are hopelessly entangled in purely physical causation. My pen writes these lines because my hand is compelled by the changes that take place in my brain to trace them, and every word that the teacher utters is due to the same cause. If the physical laws that govern my brain changes will permit me to think logically, I shall be sure, if I am an automatist, that this book, for example, will produce an effect upon its readers, not through their intelligence, but through their nervous systems. And the teachers who are automatists will be equally sure that the feelings which their words bring to the minds of their pupils are significant only in so far as they indicate changes that are taking place in their brains.

Automatism Leaves No Place for Logical Thinking. But, upon second thought, both these statements are without warrant. “Logical” itself is a term without significance from the point of view of automatism.

There are states of mind called belief, and these, like all other states, are the necessary and passive accompaniments of brain changes. To attempt to draw distinctions between them, to say that some are logical, would be to forget that the various states of mind have only one quality in common

that of being the inevitable result of brain changes. No state of mind as such signifies anything. The wakefulness of the sentinel as a state of mind counts for nothing; it is the physical condition of which this mental state is the sign that counts. And if the laws which control the changes in our brains will permit us to think of things as they are, always provided automatism be accepted as true, we shall continue to endeavor to arouse the ambitions of our pupils, to excite their interests, to make appeals to their sense of honor, only because the same laws have in some inscrutable way brought about brain changes which compel us to have a profound confidence in the physical effect of illusions; or, rather, we shall continue to do it because the influences which act upon the physical machine which we ourselves are, make that and nothing else possible. If the only things in the world are physical, if all causation is physical, our faith in the efficiency of any appeal, if it has any foundation, must be grounded on our confidence in the purely material effect of such appeals.

Indeed according to the theory all teaching, all writing, all conversation, all so-called science is absurd. All intercourse of mind with mind presupposes that the mind is susceptible of being influenced by intelligent considerations, whereas it is influenced by nothing but matter. A man who expostulates with a cyclone, entreating it either to suppress itself or, if it will not do that, to select a field of operations where it will do less damage, is quite as logical as a teacher who, believing that actions are not influenced by intelligence, expostulates with an unruly boy, urging him to change his course because of the influence he is exerting upon the school. Cyclone and boy alike are inevitably bound to obey the mechanical laws of matter. That the two differ in an important particular, that the boy can be made aware of the tendencies of his conduct, in no way establishes an essential difference between

« AnteriorContinuar »