Page images
PDF
EPUB

The thoracic and abdominal organs were apparently normal.
Weight of encephalon

...... 594 ozs. cerebellum, pons, and medulla 74 Remarks.—The private history of this man, with which I happened to be acquainted, as well as the character of the caries of the calvarium, left little doubt in ny mind that his illness was of a syphilitic origin. At one time in circumstances of comparative comfort, he sunk, through intemperance and improvidence, to the social rank of a pig-sticker. A daughter became a prostitute, and he latterly lived with her in a brothel in Dundee. Whether the alleged blow on the head had to do with the formation of the cerebral abscesses, there is, I think, room to doubt. The perforations in the calvarium had that clear, well-defined, round outline, as if cut out with a punch, so characteristic of " syphilitic caries.” I am disposed to think that the cerebral abscesses had also a syphilitic origin, but whether syphilitic or traumatic, it seems certain that they had existed when the patient had lucid intervals, during which his intellect was almost unimpaired. This may be added to other cases already recorded in evidence, that there may be very extensive destruction of the central white matter of the cerebrum, with comparatively little mental derangement, so long as the grey matter of the convolutions is not materially implicated. Though one of the abscesses in this case had pointed to the surface, the opposing surfaces of the arachnoid had become so glued together as to render escape of the pus into the arachnoid sac impossible. The most interesting fact, however, was that the largest abscess discharged itself externally through one of the perforations in the temporal bone. There was an evident connection between the suppuration and the epileptic seizures : when the discharge was arrested, and the pus probably pent up within the cerebrum, epileptic fits supervened, and conversely a free discharge of pus from the forehead was invariably followed by cessation of the convulsions, and an amelioration of the other head symptoms. It is also worthy of note in this case that, though there was general muscular enfeeblement, the patient never presented any hemiplegia or other distinct paralysis.

PART 11.-REVIEWS,

The Methods of Ethics. By HENRY SIDGWICK, M.A. Mac

millan and Co., 1874. Mr. Sidgwick declares the plan and purpose of his book to be “an examination, at once expository and critical, of the different methods of obtaining reasoned convictions as to what ought to be done, which are to be found-either explicit or implicit—in the moral consciousness of mankind generally; and which, from time to time, have been developed, either singly or in combination, by individual thinkers, and worked up into the systems now historical.” Avoiding any inquiry into the origin of the moral faculty by the simple assumption that it is something under any circumstances which it is right or reasonable to do, and that this may be known, he has endeavoured to expound and criticise from a neutral position, and as impartially as possible, the different methods which have been used to get at this knowledge of “what ought to be done.” The aim of the book, then, is a purely scientific criticism of method, and it is characterized throughout by subtile analysis, precise definition, and scholastic learning. We must confess, however, that our attention has not seldom been prone to wander as we read, for, notwithstanding much originality and freshness in the exposition of the subject, there is a want of method in it which bas entailed frequent repetition. A question once dilated upon is apt to come up again and again, sometimes, no doubt, in a new relation, and to be further discussed; the result being to produce a considerable haze of mind and an impatience of attention. Whether the fault be in us or in Mr. Sidgwick's style, we must confess too that we have often been obliged, even with the best attention, to read sentences two or three times over, in order to apprehend their meaning,

It will be deemed by moral philosophers an ignorant heresy, no doubt, but we cannot help sometimes asking ourselves the question whether there has been any real profit in the elaborate disquisitions which have been put forth respecting the right end which men ought to strive for in life-whether pleasure, or perfection, or virtue, or the greatest good of the greatest number. It is a problem concerning which it might be said, Solvitur ambulando. Will not the time come when, possessed of a mental science founded on the study of the course of development of mind from its earliest beginning in nature to its latest evolution, and upon a thorough knowledge of physiology, men will look upon such disquisitions very much as they look upon the wasted labour of the alchymists now that they have attained to a knowledge of chemistry, or as they looked upon the futile labours to solve the problem of perpetual motion when they had once attained to a sound knowledge of the principles of mechanics. It would be wrong certainly to place the endeavours to discover the summum bonum on the same level with the futile experiments made to transmute the baser metals into gold, even though chemistry was much helped into being by the latter. All that it is intended to convey by the comparison is that a great advance in positive knowledge of mind, may, as has happened with other branches of knowledge, open a new and direct road to the goal which men have striven in vain to reach by devious and uncertain paths, and shew their former striving to be but gropings in the dark.

Mr. Sidgwick might certainly say that he is not concerned with speculations concerning what the future may disclose; the task which he has set himself being to expound and criticise the different methods which have been used to get at the knowledge of what ought to be done. The only question is, whether that aim has been successfully fulfilled. So far as criticism goes, there can be no doubt that it is elaborate and subtile almost to an extreme degree; so far as exposition goes, however, we do not feel so sure of Mr. Sidgwick's success. He does not mark out plainly the distinct track of a method; he is for ever starting off on some bye-path, and proceeds sometimes so far and so eagerly in the pursuit of its sub-divisions, that he hardly seems to get back to the main track at all; and if he does come round to it again, he is sure to leave it at the first opportunity. Thus there is a failure to present a clear idea of what the method is. The channel of the stream is lost, not in a swamp certainly, but in a multitude of small streams. We are apt to come upon such an expression as this—“This leads me to a remark which to some extent qualifies what was said in the preceding chapter;" that is, when we suppose we have done with the subject, we find that the author is incidentally led in a following chapter to a remark which qualifies to some extent what was said in a preceding chapter. Surely the proper place for the qualification was the place where the argument was stated; the more so, as it would not then be necessary to re-state the argument, in order to make known how it is to be qualified. In the particular instance mentioned, we lost ourselves in the attempt to find out what actually was the qualification to be made.

Enough, however, of criticism. However sorely the reader's patience may sometimes be tried, he cannot fail, if he resolve sternly to exercise it, to profit by Mr. Sidgwick's careful analysis. It may be hoped that those who in time to come write on what has been, is, or should be the aim of human endeavour, will study his criticisms. They will thus be made familiar with the distinctions which they otherwise might overlook, and will not, like Mr. Lecky, fall into the blunder of mis-stating, or of failing to comprehend, the doctrine of their adversaries, and of then vigorously combating their own misapprehensions. As Mr. Sidgwick remarks, “The difference between the propositions (1) that each ought to seek his own happiness, and (2) that each ought to seek the happiness of all, is so obvious and glaring, that instead of dwelling upon it we seem rather called upon to explain how the two ever came to be confounded, or in any way included under one notion ;” and yet no less a person than Mr. Lecky has failed to make the distinction in the onslaught which he has made upon what he supposes to be Utilitarianism. If Mr. Lecky studies this work, he is not likely, we think, to make the same mistake again, and it is probable he will be made aware of still more subtile distinctions which may not have been dreamt of in his philosophy.

It is obvious that it is not possible in a short space to give a critical review of so minutely critical a book. Were we to begin at the beginning, we should be inclined to question Mr. Sidgwick's right to start with what he calls the simple assumption that there is something under any circumstances which it is right or reasonable to do, and that this may be known. Is not this verily a complex and big assumption ? It is the assumption of the existence of a moral sense or faculty, for it assumes a faculty of some kind, which recognises by intuition and makes known what is right or reasonable; and of its validity, for it assumes that it makes known what it is right or reasonable to do? Let us try to touch solid ground, and, coming down from the abstract to the concrete, ask the somewhat crude, but certainly not irrelevant, question—To whom does it make this known ? to Mr Sidgwick, or to the Todo of the Nilagire mountains of Southern India, or to the Bosjesman of South Africa, or to the hereditary criminal of Europe ? Mr. Sidgwick would hardly have had occasion to write a book of exposition and criticism of methods of ethics had this faculty really made known to men in times past, or did it make known to them now, what it was right or reasonable to do : for it is a matter on which they have been disputing ever since they began to reflect upon themselves, and with regard to which they have not yet come to an agreement. Can anyone now formulate for mankind what it is right or reasonable for them to do? Pilate asked, not jestingly, as Bacon fancied, but in the spirit of philosophy,

'What is truth ?” and in the same spirit may we ask, “What is right?” and, like him, we shall wait in vain for a reply. For we should desire to be informed whether it was a sure and immutable formula applicable to mankind in the abstract, to an ideal mankind, or whether it was applicable to the concrete races of men, and if so, to which race, and at what stage of its development? If you say that each race of beings had a notion of right and wrong which influenced its conduct, then we should beg to be informed specifically what that notion was, and how it is related to the notion of right and wrong which prevails amongst the most cultivated individuals of the most cultivated raceswhether, in fact, the right of one age is not often the wrong of the next. We object, at any rate, to classing very different things under the same abstract name, and thereupon converting that name into an invariable entity. And we do not think that any discussion of the moral sense, and of the methods which have been pursued to discover its teachings, can be satisfactory which does not take notice of its origin and development. When, for instance, a method of ethics which found favour in the time of Aristotle is contrasted with the latest method of ethics which has been propounded, how is it possible to set forth accurately the comparison, and to do justice to the latter, without taking into account what modern science has taught concerning the origin and evolution of the moral sense ? A criticism of the latter which formulates its supposed tendency as Hedonism, or Universalistic Utilitarianism, or by any other scholastic term, abandons the real for the abstract, and is apt to be barren and verbal rather than fruitful and actual. Mr. Sidgwick might probably say, as, indeed, he does somewhere say, that the question of the existence of moral intuition cannot be in

« ՆախորդըՇարունակել »