Essays on Education and Kindred Subjects eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 497 pages of information about Essays on Education and Kindred Subjects.
But though the surrounding material out of which science is to be organised, is, in many cases, the same to the juvenile mind and the aboriginal mind, it is not so throughout; as, for instance, in the case of chemistry, the phenomena of which are accessible to the one, but were inaccessible to the other.  Hence, in proportion as the environment differs, the course of evolution must differ.  After admitting sundry exceptions, however, there remains a substantial parallelism; and, if so, it becomes of great moment to ascertain what really has been the process of scientific evolution.  The establishment of an erroneous theory must be disastrous in its educational results; while the establishments of a true one must eventually be fertile in school-reforms and consequent social benefits.

[1] British Quarterly Review, July 1854.

[2] It is somewhat curious that the author of The Plurality of Worlds, with quite other aims, should have persuaded himself into similar conclusions.


Why do we smile when a child puts on a man’s hat? or what induces us to laugh on reading that the corpulent Gibbon was unable to rise from his knees after making a tender declaration?  The usual reply to such questions is, that laughter results from a perception of incongruity.  Even were there not on this reply the obvious criticism that laughter often occurs from extreme pleasure or from mere vivacity, there would still remain the real problem—­How comes a sense of the incongruous to be followed by these peculiar bodily actions?  Some have alleged that laughter is due to the pleasure of a relative self-elevation, which we feel on seeing the humiliation of others.  But this theory, whatever portion of truth it may contain, is, in the first place, open to the fatal objection, that there are various humiliations to others which produce in us anything but laughter; and, in the second place, it does not apply to the many instances in which no one’s dignity is implicated:  as when we laugh at a good pun.  Moreover, like the other, it is merely a generalisation of certain conditions to laughter; and not an explanation of the odd movements which occur under these conditions.  Why, when greatly delighted, or impressed with certain unexpected contrasts of ideas, should there be a contraction of particular facial muscles, and particular muscles of the chest and abdomen?  Such answer to this question as may be possible can be rendered only by physiology.

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