The Human Intellect -- By: John Bascom

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 027:105 (Jan 1870)
Article: The Human Intellect
Author: John Bascom


The Human Intellect1

Rev. John Bascom

It is pleasant that an able work on a difficult theme should meet with an appreciative reception. This satisfaction is granted us in the cordial way in which the labors of Professor Porter have been recognized. The reviews seen by us have abounded with praise, and professed a sincere admiration for the success achieved. We trust that what we have to say will be regarded as no exception to this general feeling, though we shall devote most of our space to a criticism of some of the views presented in the work, which we honor for its clear, faithful, comprehensive thought. We choose this method as more called for, and more instructive, than one of laudation, however well deserved.

The first merit of the book is its practical, inductive form of inquiry. The analysis and deductive reasoning are constantly guided and corrected by the facts of mind sought by the author in consciousness, and further revealed by language and the actions of men. A second great merit is its comprehensive, historic method. The historic element is very important and very prominent. We see how opinion has swayed to the one side or to the other, and the relation of the view of the author to previous views. This is perhaps the most characteristic feature of the work. Not least among its excellences should be placed its thorough and hearty rejection of every form of materialism. These qualities, with the elaborate and independent discussion given to the subject in its many bearings, make it a very note-worthy book, attracting at once the attention of every one interested in metaphysics.

Over against these great excellences, we should put, as passing blemishes, an occasional prolixity of discussion; as, for instance, a chapter of ten pages devoted to the question: Is the soul active in sense-perception? or one of eighteen pages on the products of sense-perception. Yet even these are in keeping with the slow, thorough movement of the author. There are also occasional statements, the truth of which is by no means obvious. The following are examples. Having spoken of sensation and perception, he says: “Certain other mental states, far more numerous, are attended by no affections of the body whatever” (p. 25). I suppose the proof, if not absolute, is sufficient to establish a destruction of brain-tissue in connection with all thought. He affirms: “The brute is not self-conscious under the most favorable circumstances, nor can he become so as the result of any development whatever” (p. 102). The difficulty here seems to be, as the context serves to show, in the peculiar meaning attached to the word self-conscious. In no ordinary signification...

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