Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

them, since, according to automatism, his consciousness has nothing to do with his actions.

Automatism Makes Distinctions Between Truth and Falsehood Impossible. It follows, of course, from what has been said, that this statement is, from the standpoint of the theory, absurd. This statement, like every other, assumes that there is such a thing as truth, assumes, in other words, that in an act of real knowledge the act of cognition is something radically different from a mere passive effect; that the mind, in knowing, stands in a unique relation with its object, a relation that has no counterpart in the material world. Whoever says, “I see it,” “I believe it,” “It is true," makes assertions into which no meaning can be put by automatism. All the language of ordinary life, to say nothing of the carefully guarded statements of science, presupposes that acts of the mind may come into a peculiar relation with objects — a relation which is through and through mental, a relation which, however hard it may be to define it, we all have in mind - when we assert that a thing is true. Automatism, on the other hand, maintains that the one thing which can be asserted of states of consciousness is that they are the passive results of brain changes ; and this is equivalent to saying that the cause-and-effect relation is the only one into which they can enter.

Theory of Parallelism Stated. There is another theory of the relation between the mind and the body which makes equally impossible the presuppositions which must be made by any consistent educational doctrine. This theory, known as parallelism, maintains that matter and mind never exist apart; that not only in the human brain, but everywhere, from an atom to the largest star, matter and mind go together. Instead of supposing with automatism that at a certain point in the development of the nervous system a rudimentary form of consciousness began to exist, parallelism maintains that a germ, so to speak, of consciousness exists not only in connection with the most elementary nervous systems, not only in connection with every form of organic life, not only in connection with every complex form of inorganic matter, but in connection with the simple elements out of which those complex forms are

built up.

Superiority of Parallelism over Automatism. - The advantage of parallelism over automatism as a metaphysical theory is manifest. Automatism offers no explanation for the appearance of an entirely new phenomenon, consciousness, at a certain point in the history of the evolving world. Parallelism avoids this difficulty by postulating a universal and necessary connection between matter and conscious

- by postulating that wherever matter is, and in whatever form, there consciousness is.

ness

This Superiority has no Significance from the Standpoint of Education. But this superiority has no significance from the point of view of education. Granted that mind and matter are inseparable, and that for that reason a human being has a mental and a material side ; granted that those sides are so related that the question as to which of them is the cause of the other in a given case becomes absurd, since it is the nature of each to be the opposite of the other. The question of fundamental importance for education is, which of these two sides has priority? Does the mental side obey laws of its own, the material accompaniment passively following where consciousness leads ? Or does the physical side take the lead, the mental accompaniment mechanically following ? Parallelism does not, cannot hesitate between these alternatives. The logic of the situation compels it to say that matter and mind are like substance and shadow, the former containing all the causal energy of the universe, the latter being only its inert accompaniment.

According to Parallelism the Relation Between Matter and Consciousness is like that Between Substance and Shadow.What is the object of both automatism and parallelism ? To introduce simplicity into our conceptions of the universe, to close every breach in the continuity of cosmic processes. Parallelism differs from automatism in that while the latter accomplishes this purpose from one point of view, it fails to do it from another. Automatism does indeed present to our conception a universe whose every element is under the absolute control of physical laws. But facts which compel recognition force it to admit that in connection with the developing nervous system a new phenomenon appears, a phenomenon which plays no part, serves no function, has no purpose, and, what is worse, has no assignable origin. For the distance from matter to mind is just as great as that from mind to matter. And he who has difficulty in conceiving how mind can influence matter ought to have equal difficulty in seeing how matter can give birth to mind. Now parallelism avoids both difficulties. It postulates a connection between matter and mind as a part of the nature of things, thus avoiding the necessity of accounting for consciousness as a new fact in connection with animal life, and at the same time solves the problem of the origin of consciousness by assuming that there is no problem to solve.

It is evident, therefore, that both parallelism and automatism must take the same attitude towards the laws of nature. The laws of gravitation, cohesion, chemical affinity, and the like, are purely mechanical laws. To permit mind or consciousness anywhere to take the initiative, to compel matter to be passive and wait upon mind, would be to make precisely the break in the continuity of cosmic processes which both theories aim to avoid. It would be to assert that under certain circumstances all the changes in matter are due to mechanical laws, and that, under certain other conditions, those laws cease to be the only laws in operation, and that matter comes, to some extent at least, under the control of the laws of logic and of mind.

Nor is this difficulty avoided by Professor Baldwin, who says that it is not the brain as mere matter, but the brain plus the consciousness that forms its inseparable accompaniment, and without which “the brain would not be a brain," which causes voluntary movement. For he admits that the principle of parallelism would be violated if consciousness had any efficiency whatever in producing physical effects.

Evidently, therefore, from the standpoint of a consistent theory of education automatism and parallelism are on a level. Arguments, discussions, conversation, have the same absurdity from the point of view of one theory as from that of the other. Both assume that consciousness is the internal passive accompaniment of physical changes, whereas all argument presupposes that it can be brought under influences of a purely intelligent character.

Attempts to Do Away with the Distinction Between Laws of Matter and Laws of Mind. — Nor is the case made better for education by the attempt through a supposedly deeper metaphysic to annihilate the distinction between the laws of matter and the laws of mind. By maintaining that the laws of matter are themselves simply the expression of the will of an infinite consciousness, that they are in the last analysis laws of mind, some thinkers seem to imagine that the difficulties upon which we have been insisting are obviated. But it is surely unnecessary to insist that, no matter what the metaphysical character of the laws of nature may be, they wear, to the look of our apprehension, the same mechanical character which they have when we regard them as laws of matter. Whether the law of gravitation is a law of matter or of mind, a tree that falls to the ground in obedience to it will make no discrimination between a good man and a bad man who happen to stand in its path. If the universe and its laws are but the embodiment and externalization of the nature of an infinite consciousness, educational doctrine has no foundation if it is maintained that, since the human mind is a part of this externalization, it has no autonomy, obeys no laws of its own. Education as consisting of influences exerted by one intelligence upon another cannot be conceived if the educating intelligence is powerless and if the intelligence to be educated cannot be got at. Make what supposition you please about the entity with which our minds are associated — call it Matter, with plain people ; or the Unknowable, with Herbert Spencer; or the Merely

« AnteriorContinuar »