« PreviousContinue »
guous to the medulla oblongata as these corpora dentata, would be compatible with the maintenance of functions essential to life, although the removal or destruction of the bulk of the cerebellum might suggest no such difficulty. Besides, it is notorious that, in the case of animals, movements purely reflex will sometimes be mistaken for those indicative of common sensation. But probably the cases already observed with respect to this point are too few for any decisive conclusion. Dr. Carpenter, in his later editions, admits the probability of the inferior ganglia of the cerebellum—the corpora dentata-constituting the encephalic region of the muscular sense; but is there good reason for deeming this to be anything else than common sensation as resident in the muscles ?” (p. 50.)
In his present work, Dr. Noble has more fully worked out his suggestions as to the “emotional sensibility” being fundamentally distinct from the "sensational sensibility," endeavouring to show that the emotional sensibility produces its own actions upon the general system distinct from the movements which Dr. Carpenter denominates consensual, and that these different sensibilities have respectively separate ganglionic centres in the encephalon. In his sixth chapter, On the Seat of Consciousness,' the author corbats two well-known and remarkable doctrines taught by the able author of the 'Human Physiology. The first doctrine is that in which Dr. Carpenter affirms the cerebrum itself not to be the seat of consciousness; to use his own words
“The cerebrum is the instrument of all those psychical operations which we include under the general term intellectual. ... It does not hence follow, however, that the cerebrum has such a direct relation to the mind, that the consciousness is immediately and necessarily affected by changes taking place in its own substance, and however startling the proposition may at first sight appear, that the organ of the intellectual operations is not itself endowed with consciousness, a careful consideration of the relations of the cerebrum to the sensory ganglia will tend to show that there is no à priori absurdity in such a notion.”
The sensory ganglia are regarded by Dr. Carpenter as the seat of consciousness,“ not merely for impressions on the organs of sense, but also for changes in the cortical substance of the cerebrum, so that until the latter have acted downwards upon the sensorium, we have no consciousness either of the formation of ideas or of any intellectual process of which these may be the subjects.” Dr. Noble asks whether a fundamental vice" does not attach to the whole argument brought forward by its well-known author!
“Whatever may be said regarding ideas that rest for their support upon sensible forms, intelligence in most of its phases cannot surely be deemed to be the simple reproduction of impressions received through the senses. However plausible may be the reasons by which it is contended that purely representative thought consists of transformed sensations, according to Condillac's theory, there can be no corresponding argument sustaining a like theory with reference to the higher manifestations of mind, including its more general and abstract operations. It has been seen that the representative sensible faculty primarily developes ideas by the presence of an object acting upon the organs of sense, and that these ideas will afterwards spring up independent of the object, either spontaneously or by some operation of the will. Still even here, as I have already maintained, the idea, upon close attention, is distinguishable from the sensation itself; and however anxious we may be to reduce every idea to some internal form of a representative character, we shall find in the depths of our consciousness numerous thoughts which can have no proper basis in sensible images. What is that faculty of thinking which seizes upon analogies, which traces the relations of metaphy. sical ideas, which estimates the possible? Do not the ideas of unity, number, space, and causality, express things which are not sensible? We may ask those,' says Balmez, who hold that every idea is the image of an object, what sort of an image the idea of not being would form.' And yet this sensational theory is an inevitable postulate in the argument which limits the seat of consciousness to the sensory ganglia—an argument which practically nullifies all psychical function in the admitted organ of the intelligence.” (p. 103.)
Now, without unhesitatingly yielding our assent to Dr. Carpenter's opinion, we must confess that we do not see that it absolutely necessitates all knowledge to consist of transformed sensations, or to originate alone through the sense perceptions. In the sensory ganglia (says the writer in question) is localized all consciousness-consciousness both of cognitions and of ideas. The origin of the former (he might continue) is to be sought in the sense perceptions, that of the latter in the original intuitions of the human mind having their primary organic correlates in the cortex of the hemispheric ganglia.. That it is difficult to understand how, as regards the direct and presentative knowledge of the intuitional consciousness, ideas or the concepts of the reason (Vernunft), where subject stands face to face with object, and where it is itself both subject and object at the same time, there should be such a complexity and an intervention as is here implied in the repetition of organic correlates at different localities, we however adınit. "We would go (with a modification) so far with Dr. Noble in asking, “When we come to the origin of ideas and their manifold relations one with another, what imaginable antecedent can there be ” to the consciousness of them, save only the ideas themselves ? (Dr. Noble says, “To the thought, excepting sensational phenomena?” But this latter Dr. Carpenter's theory does not assert, though it does not explain what the antecedent be). And we would admit, with the former, that the doctrine in question has the appearance of practically nullifying all psychical function in the admitted organ of the intelligence.
One thing is clear to our minds—that physiologists who deal with psychology use the term "consciousness ” often very vaguely, and that if the question before us is to be satisfactorily settled, it can only be after strictly determining the value of the terms employed in its discussion. The second doctrine we before alluded to is that called by its author " unconscious cerebration," and which is employed also to support the former one-that the cerebrum is not the seat of consciousness.
"Most persons (says Dr. Carpenter) who attend to their own mental operations, are aware that when they have been occupied for some time about a particular subject, and have then transferred their attention to some other, the first, when they returned to the consideration of it, may be found to present an aspect very different from that which it possessed before it was put aside, notwithstanding that the mind has been so completely engrossed with the second subject as not to have been consciously directed towards the first in the interval. Now, a part of his change may depend upon the altered condition of the mind itself, such as we experience when we take up a subject in the morning with all the vigour which we derive from the refreshment of sleep, and find no difficulty in overcoming difficulties and disentangling perplexities which checked our further progress the night before, when we were too weary to give more than a languid attention to the points to be made out, and could use no exertions in the search for these solutions. But this by no means accounts for the entirely new development which the subject is frequently found to have undergone when we return to it after a considerable interval—a development which cannot be reasonably explained in any other mode than by attributing it to the intermediate activity of the cerebrum, which has in this instance automatically evoked the result without our consciousness."
As we were lately perusing the Life of Charlotte Brontè,' the following extract struck us as not inaptly illustrating this theory of “unconscious cerebration.” Mrs. Gaskell, we must premise, had asked the gifted authoress of “ Jane Eyre' whether she had ever taken opium, as the description given of its effects in · Vilette' was so exactly like what she had experienced—viz., vivid and exaggerated presence of objects of which the outlines were indistinct, or lost in golden mist. Miss Brontè replied:
"She had never to her knowledge taken a grain of it in any shape, but that she had followed the process she always adopted when she had to describe anything which had not fallen within her own experience. She had thought intensely on it for many and many a night before falling to sleep-wondering what it was like, or what it would be—till at length, sometimes after the progress of her story had been arrested at this one point for weeks, she wakened up in the morning with all clear before her, as if she had in reality gone through the experience, aud then could describe it word for word as it had happened. I cannot [continues Mrs. Gaskell) account for this psychologically. I am sure that it was so, because she said it."*
The facts usually cited in support of this theory are of course admitted by Dr. Noble as being more or less within the well recognised experience of us all; but he maintains that an explanation of them can be offered more in accordance with the recognised laws of thought than that which involves so occult an agency, and which regards “nerve
* Op. cit., vol. ii. p. 801.
substance as elaborating and perfecting thought without thought." (p. 95.) Dr. Noble's solution of the matter may be gleaned from the following extracts :
Although we ordinarily remember facts and mental processes very much in proportion as they have engaged the attention and a certain reflex consideration at any time, this rule is by no means absolute. Ideas and feelings once experienced may at any time revive in the consciousness, and yet not always be recognised as having previously had existence, particularly when at some former periods they have never been subjected by attention to a reflex mental process. Undoubtedly, under these latter circumstances, numberless thoughts and reasonings and ideas of external occurences pass for ever from the consciousness, but this is far from being always the case—again and again will they return without any systematic identification. And are not most of the phenomena cited by Dr. Carpenter in support of his theory of unconscious cerebration explicable by these laws of spontaneous thought, according to which our mental operations are frequently unremembered when repeated ?" (p. 96.)
“This mental process may probably be with some accuracy designated involuntary and irattentive thinking, but not with justice an unconscious action of the brain. I am decidedly of opinion myself, that the explanation now offered of these well-known phenomena will more or less cover all the psychical processes that have been cited to establish a doctrine of uncoscious cerebration.” (p. 99.)
The views which have been advanced by Professor Laycock “On the Reflex Functions of the Brain,' are also regarded as very doubtfully true by our author. To them there would appear, he says, to be this objection—" that it is not very obvious how the evidence of facts can be made to corroborate them or otherwise." Nevertheless, as it is clear that
“Numerous psychical phenomena are observable, of a quasi-automatic character, from the dominance of particular ideas or trains of thought, &c., it may probably be correct to regard them as the product of some sort of reflex action of the hemispherical ganglia.” (p. 109.)
The WILL swaying and dominating over mental conditions of every kind cannot, as Dr. Noble observes, be conceived as mixed up specially with any particular ganglionic mass.
Interesting and important as are the several departments of philosophy and science touched upon in the preceding pages, we are not sure but that we may have trespassed somewhat upon the reader's patience. We shall therefore draw our observations to a close, simply expressing our high opinion of the support which philosophy has received from the hands of Mr. Morell. It is impossible that his several writings could be here dealt with in the manner which they so amply merit; but this should not prevent as from remarking, that no intelligent and thoughtful person, after having gone through his History of Speculative Philosophy,' could, we conceive, afford to laugh at metaphysics ; and none having perused his Philosophy of Religion could remain unimpressed by the lucid truth of its argument, or by the broad catholicity of its Christian teachings.
A Manual of Psychological Medicine, containing the History, Nosology, Deseription, Statistics
, Diagnosis, Pathology, and Treatment of Insanity. With an Appendix of Cases. By J. C. BUCKNILL, M.D., Licentiate of the Royal College of Physicians, Fellow of University College, London, Fellow of the Medico-Chirurgieal Society, Superintendent of the Devon County Lunatic Asylum, and Editor of the Asylum Journal of Medical Science;' and by Daniel H. TUKE, M.D., Licentiate of the Royal College of Physicians, Lecturer on Psychological Medicine at the York School of Medicine, and Visiting Medical Officer to the York Retrcat.—London, 1858. pp. 562.
It is a matter of some surprise, considering the interest and importance of the subject, the vast opportunities that of late years have been afforded by the increased number and extent of the institutions in which insanity could be studied, and the superior order of men who have been enlisted in the service, that so many years have been allowed to pass away without the production of a comprehensive manual of psychological medicine. În the whole range of medical literature there was no book more wanted, both by practitioners and students; but the responsibility of presenting such a work to the world seems to have been too great for even such experienced authors as the accomplished physicians to the Devon and the York Asylums for either of them to have undertaken the task alone without the mutual support of one another. They have both been industrious labourers in this much-neglected field, and have already greatly assisted to establish a literature on the subject. If it has been reserved for physicians connected with provincial asylums to supply their professional brethren with a guide, the want of which has been so long and so generally felt, it reflects great honour not only upon themselves, but their order, and helps to prove that advancing civilization and increasing facilities of communication are gradually removing the distinctions that used to be generally recognised between Provincial and London practitioners, and that the advancement of science in its highest departments may proceed quite as rapidly and satisfactorily away from the busy haunts of men as in the centres of intelligence and the seats of learning-that, in fact, wherever the great book of Nature is open
to the learned and industrious student, there is much to be gleaned by careful observation and thoughtful labour ; while there is reason to hope that discoveries equal in importance to those which have already conferred such benefits upon the world, may yet reward the diligent and patient inquirer after truth.
We congratulate our authors upon having so well sustained their high reputation by such a very valuable contribution to the literature of their country, for the work before us will be appreciated not only by the medical profession, but by all who take an interest in the advancement of science. It must be admitted that there is some disadvantage in dividing the treatment of such a subject between two individuals, and that the unity of design is better preserved by an independent author; but this disadvantage is to a great extent compensated for by the additional learning and enlarged experience which are brought to bear upon the subject.
In the words of the preface, the arrangement adopted by our authors is as follows :The chapters on the History, Nosology, Description, and Statistics, are by Dr. Tuke; those on Diagnosis, Pathology and Treatment, with the Appendix of Cases, by Dr. Bucknill.
After an interesting sketch of the history of insanity among the nations of antiquity, the influence of civilization on the production of this malady is ably discussed, and the various fallacies pointed out which have tended to erroneous conclusions as to the proportion of insane to the general population. There are so many considerations affecting an estimate of this kind which are constantly overlooked, that we continually hear of the increase of insanity as an established fact, although perhaps the authoritative assertion rests only on the circumstance that a large number of cases is brought to the knowledge of the individual so expressing an opinion. Our authors say:
"On no subject has there been more absurd and illogical reasoning, and more hasty generalization, than on the proportion of the insane to the population, whether in regard to various countries, or in regard to the same country at different periods of its history. The most obvious essentials for making correct comparisons are constantly disregarded, notwithstanding which, the most important inferences are drawn with the utmost complacency, and apparently in entire ignorance of the fallacy which underlies such loose and worthless calculations. Even up to the present time, and in scientific journals, we are presented with a list of the numbers of lunatics in various countries, the conclusion being drawn that such numbers represent correctly the liability to insanity in these countries, the difference sometimes ranging between 1 in 8000 and 1 in 30,000! Generally, the only basis for such calculations is the number of patients in lunatic asylums; yet it must be obvious that in consequence of the very different provision made for the insane in different countries, such a basis as this is utterly fallacious.”
The laws, customs, relative mortality, and success of treatment, vary so much in different countries, that it is impossible to form any correct estimate of the comparative number of their insane populations, and although in our own country we may approximate somewhat nearer to the truth in such a calculation, we must even here look suspiciously at statistics when we find, as our authors remark, that
“In the short period of nineteen years, the estimated proportion of the insane in England rose from 1 in 7300 to 1 in 769—a difference which led to the belief in the frightful increase of insanity, but which by no means warranted such a conclusion. The knowledge of an evil and the existence of that evil are two widely different things. Insanity may or may not have increased, but our increased knowledge of its extent is no proof that it has."
Again, improved methods of treatment and consequent recoveries—a large proportion of which, as we shall see, are not permanent, whilst they increase the number of recurrent cases, would apparently increase the number of the insane.
“Civilization, with its attendant knowledge and education, creates social conditions and offers prizes dependent solely upon intense intellectual competition unparalleled in any former age, and of course unknown among barbarous nations, which of necessity involve risks (to employ no stronger term) which otherwise would not have existed. . . . In a highly-civilized community, the highest standard of intellectual attainment is constantly presented to the aspirations of its members, and minds without reference to calibre promiscuously enter the lists of an unequal contest.”
But it is not only the higher faculties of man which are forced into unnatural activity under the influence of civilization. The passions are constantly subject to the same influence in the great battle of life, and the lower propensities also keep pace in the struggle. The most refined enjoyments even have a tendency to excess, and so all the conditions of civilization, involving as they do increased cerebral action in one form or other, lead to premature decay, in the progress of which the proper balance of the mind is frequently disturbed. The great danger to which civilization predisposes the human mind arises as much from the irregular and partial nature of the excitement to which it is exposed, as from the laborious exercise of its faculties generally. In the race for pre-eminence, it is often particular faculties which are subjected to an excessive strainothers, from disuse or subordinate exercise, fail to exert the salutary influence which their steady employment is calculated to have on the mental equilibrium. It seems essential to the proper development of mental manifestations, that all the functions of the brain should be kept in exercise equally; but if no regard is paid to this condition, and some faculties are urged to their utmost without any corresponding exertion of the others, there is danger that what has been uncontrolled will become uncontrollable, and that the individual will be hurried on in his impetuous course to the object of his ambition, unconscious that he is gradually, and often rapidly, losing the power to guide his actions and his conduct, and establishing the diseased condition which we call insanity. An individual may be exhausted by mental as well as by bodily labour, but in the former case it is the exquisitely delicate structure of the brain which is subjected to the perils of overwork, and which is so much more susceptible to injury than the ruder muscular structures which bear the brunt of physical labour, and are at the same time more easily renovated and restored. It is not contended that the increased intellectual exertion which is a condition of increasing civilization, as such, predisposes to insanity. If due regard be paid to the proper exercise of all the mental faculties and bodily functions, the healthy brain is capable to meet the exigencies of an altered state of society, and to undergo increased exertion without damage, provided it be not carried to excess, for then what would only be temporary exhaustion in other organs, may be in the case of the brain permanent