§20. Some A Priori Dicta


110. The last fifty years have taught the lesson of not trifling with facts and not trusting to principles and methods which are not logically founded upon facts and which serve only to exclude testimony from consideration.

111. Such, for example, was the dictum of Claude Bernard that a disease is not an entity — a purely metaphysical doctrine. But the observation of facts has taught us that a disease is in many, if not most, serious cases, just as much an entity as a human family consisting of father, mother, and children.

112. Such was the dictum of the old psychology which identified the soul with the ego, declared its absolute simplicity, and held that its faculties were mere names for logical divisions of human activity. This was all unadulterated fancy. The observation of facts has now taught us that the ego is a mere wave in the soul, a superficial and small feature, that the soul may contain several personalities and is as complex as the brain itself, and that the faculties, while not exactly definable and not absolutely fixed, are as real as are the different convolutions of the cortex.

113. Such were the dicta by means of which the internal criticism of historical documents was carried to such a height that it often amounted to the rejection of all the testimony that has come down to us, and the substitution for it of a dream spun out of the critic's brain. But archeological researches have shown that ancient testimony ought to be trusted in the main, with a small allowance for the changes in the meanings of words. When we are told that Pythagoras had a golden thigh, we are to remember that to the ancients gold did not mean a chemical element of atomic weight 197.5 and specific gravity 19.3, melting at 1045• C. and forming saline compounds of the types AuX and AuX[3]. It meant something of metallic lustre, warmer in color than electrum and cooler than copper. Dr. Schliemann's discoveries were the first socdolager that »higher criticism« received. It has since got many others.

114. Such was the dictum of Laplace that stones do not come from heaven.

115. Such were the dicta by which everything of the nature of extraordinary powers connected with psychological states of which the hypnotic trance is an example were set down as tricks. At present, while the existence of telepathy cannot be said to be established, all scientific men are obliged by observed facts to admit that it presents at least a very serious problem requiring respectful treatment.


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