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As was intimated, this subject is a difficult one at best, and the
difficulty is greatly augmented by our inability to obtain accurate
statistics. Therefore, in the present instance, we must resort, to
some extent, to a priori reasoning, in order to a proper elucidation
of the principles involved. It is confidently believed, however,
from such observations as, we have been able to make, that the
facts in the cape, will justify the conclusions arrived at.

It is laid down, as a fundamental proposition in the prevailing
systems of mental philosophy, that the unfolding of the intellectual
faculties, at least, is dependent upon the stimulus derived ftonY the
external world through the medium of the senses. In view of
some of the phenominal manifestations of the peculiar, spiritual
organization which we denominate genius, the strict truth of this
doctrine is sometimes deemed, in a slight degree, questionable ; but,
in the present state of knowledge, we cannot do better than receive
it At all events, to assume that the mind can, grow into a con*
dition of complete, harmonious, action, with any one of its more
important avenues to sensorial impressions closed, is to charge, that
an All-wise Creator has endowed his creatures with & useless
faculty. *

There are those who, either through ignorance of the elementary

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principles of mental science, or from want of reflection, manifest
great, astonishment on discovering that a blind child is possessed of
correct notions with regard to the form, dimensions and other
tactual qualities of material objects, and straightway proceed to
account for the phenomenon by declaring that the power which
would have been exercised by the missing sense, had it been pres-
ent, is mercifully distributed among the remaining ones. But this
mode of reasoning, it is scarcely necessary to say, will not answer.
Each sense has its especial function, and this function cannot be
performed by another. True, after the particular notions which
originally reach the mind through a given sense have been derived,
through the functional operations of the appropriate organ of that
sense, they may afterwards \>e cognizable by another sense, as
acquired perceptions, but without the intervention of the special
sense which forms the appropriate channel for the original convey-
ance of these notions to the mind, they never could reach it- Thus
it is with regard to the notions of form, etc, just alluded to. In
the absence of the tactual sense from birth, though the visual Qne
be ever so perfect, they never could reach the mind ; and so with
the original cognitions of light and shade, which form the basis of
acquired perceptions of the sense of sight. The mind must re-
main forever destitute of them, at least in its earthly state of ex-
istence, when that sense is missing. Hence it may be remarked,
in passing, that the marvelous, unphilosophical stories which we
sometimes hear, of certain blind persons being able to distinguish
colors by touch, are utterly without foundation in truth. ' If, then,
these, premises are correct, while there is no just reason for aston-
ishment at the blind child's possession of the kinds of knowledge
before cited, there are, nevertheless, some notions of the qualities
of material objects, of which he must remain essentially ignorant,
and therefore his mental development must, in just so much, be
unfavorably influenced. Now, it is a knowledge of the character
and amount of this influence which we are, through our present
inquiry, seeking to obtain, in the hope of being able to suggest some
available means of counteracting it, so far as such a thing is

The human soul, considered in its relationship to external nature,
is sometimes beautifully likened to a musical instrument , "Re-
garded in itself, it is an invisible existence, having the capacity and
elements of harmony." The senses, the brain and the nervous

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system generally, constitute 'the beautiful framework which the
Creator has woven around its mysterious, invisible strings. This
living instrument is, at first, voiceless $nd silent, but when it is
properly wrought upon "by those outward influences which exist
in the various forms and adaptations of the material world," it gives
4brth ravishing strains of exquisite harmony.

Now, when some of the finer chords of this wonderful instru-
ment, those which carry the beautiful windings of the melody, and
contribute their rich blendings of color, light and shade to the deep,
swelling harmonies of its ceaseless hymn of praise, remain un-
touched, save but lightly, by the finger of nature, though no dis-
cords may result to mar the effect, yet there will be an absence of
some of the parts necessary to that full, rich flood of harmony
which alone can satisfy the perfect ear of Deity. And herein we
find the sought for character of the influence referred to. Its
amount \vill depend, first, upon the nicety with which the dormant
strings are attuned to the rest, and their consequent susceptibility to
sympathetic vibration, as in the manifestations of genius; and,
secondly, upon the adaptedness of the means which may be em-
ployed by kind friends to counteract it.

But in order to present the matter in a clearer light, let us glance
briefly at the operations of the 'sensorial faculties, or rather those of
them which are sometimes denominated the intellectual senses, and
trace the influence of these operations upon the more interior por-
tions of the mental economy. To this end, and in order not to
stray beyond the established limits of mental science, the following
summary is made up, in great part, from the writings of acknowl-
edged authorities upon the subject.

The sense of touch is the medium through which we derive our
first notions of externality, or the existence of a world outside of
ourselves. Without it, we could have no such notion. The cog-
nitions of this sense are exceedingly definite and perfect. u By it we
not only know that a quality exists, but also what it is. We have
the knowledge, And we know what it is that produces it. In this
manner the perceptions by touch lie at the foundation of all our
knowledge of an external world We rely upon them with more
certainty than any other." Many of the qualities originally revealed
to us by touch, are subsequently cognizable by sight as acquired
perceptions. If, however, in any case, we have reason to doubt

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the evidence of sight, we instinctively apply to the sense of touch,
in order to verify our visual judgment.

" The principal qualities cognized by touch, besides externality,
are extension, hardness, softness, form, size, motion, situation and
roughness or smoothness." Besides these, however, there are
various bodily sensations of pain and pleasure, given by this sense,
which it were useless to mention here.

" Conforming ourselves, therefore, to the perceptions of touch,
we find that they are almost exclusively given us by the hand. In
this manner we obtain a distinct knowledge of extension, of size,
of hardness, softness and form. When the body is small, or the
discrimination delicate, we rely almost wholly upon the perceptive
power of the fingers. In this manner we obtain, experimentally,
nearly all our knowledge of the primary qualities of bodies."

" We learn by a proper examination <tf the subject, that not only
does this sense enable us to make large additions to our knowledge,
but that it is really the original source of a great part of our
knowledge of the world around us. Of its intrinsic importance,
we may form an opinion from the fact that there is no case on record
in which a human being has been born without it. By it alone, as
in the case of Laura Bridgman, we may learn our relation* to the
world around us; may be taught the use of language, and may
even acquire the powec of writing it with considerable accuracy.
This sense is lost only in paralysis, and in those cases in which the
individual, drawing near -to dissolution, has no further need of any
of the organs of sense."

The conceptions of tangible qualities, like the perceptions of
touch, are exceedingly definite. It is sometimes said that the
blind, who rely exclusively upon this sense for their knowledge of
external objects, can not form abstract conceptions of these, but
must id all cases imagine themselves in immediate contact, with'
the objects conceived. This, however, is a great mistake. Besides
being inconsistent with the acknowledged principles of mental
science, it is contradicted by observation and experience. Were
such a view correct, it would be impossible for a person born blind
to have any correct knowledge of distance, or of objects of great
magnitude. Nor would be be able t# derive, information from
descriptions of such objects as have neyer been brought within the
reach of his tactual sense.

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The sense of sight is, primarily, simple in its function. Nothing
is original with it, but perceptions of light, and its various modifi-
cations denominated color. These perceptions, however, are ex-
ceedingly numerous. u In this respect, the intimations of the sense
of sight stand on the same footing with those of taste and hear-
ing. A part of that knowledge which we attribute to the sight,
and which has the appearance of being immediate and original in
that sense, is not so. vSorae of its alleged perceptions are jhoperly
the results of sensations, combined not only with the usual reference
to an external cause, but also with various other acts of the judg-
ment In some cases, the combination of the acts of the judg-
ment with the visual sensation is carried so far, that there is a sort
of transfer to the sight, of the knowledge which has been obtained
from some other source. And not unfrequently, in consequence of a
long and tenacious association, we are apt to look upon the knowl-
edge thus acquired as truly original in the seeing power." Thus it
is with the cognitions of extension, figure or form, magnitude, solidity,
distance, relative position and some others. These are all conveyed
to the mind through certain dispositions of light and shade.

We are aware that there are not wanting respectable authorities
who do not subscribe to the above restricted view of the original
perceptions of sight, and who think that some of those which have
been given as acquired perceptions, are possible to the mind, yitb-,
out the intervention of touch; but it would avail nothing to* our
present purpose to discuss the matter here, or give our reasons for
adopting the views set forth* The conclusions sought to be arrived
at, may be as legitimately drawn from the one theory as from the
other. So long as it is admitted that the several cognitions refer-
red to are attainable by the touch, and no one pretends to dispute
the fact, it matters not, if any or all of them are equally attain-
able by sight, as original perceptions of that sense. In any view
of the subject, it is clear, that the sense of sight adds very greatly,
nay, almost indefinitely to the scope and powers of the mind, in
gathering into its storehouse, those materials from the external
world which are necessary to its growth \md harmonious develop-
ment. The possession of this sense, besides the inexhaustable
fund of enjoyment it affords, through the endless combinations of
color, light and shade, may be regarded as an almost immeasurable
extension of the tactual - sense, taking ip a wide spread field of
knowledge at once, or so nearly so that it amounts to the same

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tiling, reaching out to great distances, grasping objects of immense
magnitude, and discerning bodies of exceeding minuteness.

The sense of hearing is also simple in its function, giving rise
only to perceptions of sound, but these in an endless variety, equal
in extent to those of light and color originating in the visual sense.
All of the numberless sounds of nature, animate and inanimate;
all of the infinite number of tones which enter into the composi-
tion of mtbic ; all of the countless sounds M the human voice, in
their endless variety of, pitch, force, duration and combination,
'employed as the elements of spoken language, are cognized by the
mind as original perceptions *of this sense. But hearing also has
its acquired perceptions. Through it we learn of magnitude, dis-
tance, position, motion, and other qualities pertaining to sonorous
bodies; and in this respect, so far as it goes, it bears a close resem-
blance to the sense of sight.

There are also other points of .resemblance in the senses of sight
and hearing, which are not often, if at all, alluded to in works on
mental science, but which possess sufficient interest to be worthy
of mention here. The first of these to which attention will be
directed, is, that in all minds, albeit, some may lack a definite
consciousness of the truth of the assertion, perceptions and con-
ceptions of sound, particularly the latter, are endowed with the
attributes of extension, form, color, position, motion, and, we had
almost said, magnitude. As evidence of this, we will cite the cir-
cumstance, that in every language may be found. numerous quali-
fying words, relating to visible objects, which apply with equal
significance to sounds, thus indicating an intuitive recognition' of
the fact alluded to. For example, in our own language, we say of
sounds, as indicating extension, form and magnitude, that they are
broad, full, deep, slender, thin, shallow, acute, obtuse, great, small,
long,*short, increasing, diminishing, &c.; as indicating position, that
they are here, there, high, low, neat*, distant, elevated, depressed,
&c; as indicating motion, that they are slow, rapid, approaching,
receding, retarded, accelerated, rising, falling, trembling, shaking,
waving, meandering, winding, undulating, &c; and as indicating
color, light and shade, -in general terms, that they are bright, dull,
brilliant, faint, clear; obscure, lively, sombre, grave, distinct,
shadowy, &c

This proposition is, we assert, undoubtedly true of all minds,
so far as it has just been elucidated. But there are those who go

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' still farther, and attribute to sounds, or at least associate with them,
every known variety of shade and color, and we doubt not that
such would be found universally true, if all could accurately
analyze their mental operations. We talk about harmony of
colors, as well as harmony of sounds ; and all understand instinct-
ively what is meant. And in harmony of colors is as offensive to the
eye, as inharmony of sounds to the ear. The entire musical world
recognize the trpth of the principle in question, and talk as freely
of color, light and shade, in reference to sound, as does the painter
in reference to his visible pictures, and many of our finest musical
compositions are intended to represent visible objects and scenes.
The seven tones of the diatonic scale are said by all to correspond
with the seven colors of the prismatic scale, and the harmonic
triad of the former with the three primary colors of the latter. The
chromatic scale derives its name from the suggestion of color.

In exemplification of the foregoing remarks, we beg leave to
insert here the following extract from Gardner's Music of Nature,
an English work of some celebrity :

" Every one who has attentively listened to sounds, must have
noticed, that besides their acuteness and gravity, loudness or soft-
ness, shape and figure, there is another quality belonging to them,
which musicians have agreed to denominate color. The answer of
the blind man, who, on being asked what idea be had of scarlet, replied
that it was like the sound of a trumpet, is less absurd than may at
first be apprehended. If, as Sir Isaac Newton supposed, the im-
pulse upon the nerves of the eye, produced by color, is similar in
kind or degree to that produced upon the ear by sounds, the im-
pression upon the sensorium, or seat of sensation in the brain,
will probably be the same, or so nearly so, that the ideas of the
respective external objects will be associated in the mind. Accord-
ing to this theory, the different musical instruments may be- char-
acterized by correspondent colors, so as to be fancifully classed in
the following manner : '


Trombone — deep red. Flute — sky blue.

Trumpet — scarlet Diapason— deeper blue.

Clarionette— Orange. Double Diapason — purple.

Oboe— Yellow. Horn— Violet

Bassoon (Alto)— deep yellow.

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Violin — Pink. Violincello — Red.

Viola — Rose. Double Bass — deep crim. red.

In addition to what the preceding scale expresses, let it be un-
derstood, that the lowest notes of each instrument partake of the
darkest shades of its color, and as they ascend they become of a
lighter hue,"

In the above extract, the author speaks of the matter as fanciful,
though he does not appear to think so in reality ; and, we doubt
not, there are many others who will be ready to characterize it as
a fanciful notion. But, for our own part, we are strongly inclined
to the opinion that its source will be found* on proper investiga-
tion, to lie deep down among the fundamental principles of nature,
far below the regions of fancy. It is, at least, a note-worthy coin-
cidence, that Mr. Gardner's '■ fanciful scale" should tally so com-
pletely as it does with the experience of many others who have
been consulted upon the subject.

Again, secondly, the sensations of light and sound, unlike those
of taste and touch, have their origin in bodies not in contact with
the sentient organs of the percipient, and are each transmitted
through space, by vibrations of an elastic medium; which circum-
stance gives rise to several interesting analogies. For example, a
reflected image is to the visual sense what an echo is to the hearing ;
and pictorial representations have their counterpart in ventrilo-
quism. The one represents distance by diminution of size and
faintness of outline and color, while the other produces the same
effect by diminution of sound and indistinctness of utterance.

Thirdly, the laws which govern the phenomena of light and
sotina, the immediate objective perceptions of the senses of sight
and hearing, are almost identical, and serve to illustrate each other.
So that the teacher of the blind may, through the principles of ac-
coustics, which are entirely within the comprehension of his pupils,
convey to the minds of the latter a tolerably correct notion of the
principles of optics. True, he cannot give to the born blind a
proper idea of the intrinsic nature of light itself, but he m^y give
them such a knowledge of the scientific principles governing its
phenomena as will enable them to instruct those who see. It is
well known, that the celebrated Sannderson was a successful teacher
in optics as well as in mathematics. Let the fundamental notion

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46 •

of light, in the mind of the blind teacher, be ever so wide of the
truth, he cannot lead the seeing pupil astray, even though the posi-
tive experience of the latter should not come to his aid. For,
whatever that notion be, he has derived it from the language
of positive experience, and must use the same correct language in
giving expression to. his own thoughts.

It may be, that we have dwelt longer upon the topic of these in-
teresting analogies between the senses of sight and hearing, than
its importance demands ; but we have thought that, if properly
wrought out, it might have a useful bearing upon the general sub*
ject in hand ; and have therefore ventured to throw out a few hints
for the reflection of those interested in the discussion of such sub*
jects. We do not, o£ course, expect to be able to substitute hear*
ing for sight All we aim at is to ascertain whether or not there
is anything to be found in the direction indicated, which will ena-
ble us to reach, by indirect means, some of the mental powers
which are stunted in their growth through lack of the stimulus or-
dinarily derived from the external world, through the channel af-
forded by the visual sense.

Having thus sketched the operations of the three principal sen-
sorial faculties, as proposed, it now remains to advert to the com-
bined influence of these operations upon the more interior depart-
ments of the mental ^conomy, and then, if possible, point out
what must be the true condition of the mind, when the important
factor of sight is left out of the calculation. To do justice to this
part of our task, however, would require more space than we have
allotted to it; but we will endeavor, in a few general remarks, to
indicate the drift of our argument

We started out with the proposition, that the unfolding of the
mind is dependent upon the stimulus of impressions from the ma-
terial world, received through the channel of the senses ; and es-
sayed to point out the character of the respective impressions con*
veyed by each of the several senses examined. As the constituent
elements of food are assimilated by the body, and contribute to
the growth of its different organs, so it is with those sensorial im-
pressions and the cognitions to which they give rise, in their influ-
ence upon the mind. They form its appropriate aliment, some
being assimilated by one of its powers, and some by another.
Thus are called into action the faculties of perception, conception,
consciousness, attention, reflection, original suggestion, abstraction,

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association, memory, judgment, reasoning, imagination, taste; etc.j
in the department of the intellect; and the various emotions, de-
sires, and affections, natural and moral, in that of the sensibilities*

Without attempting to measure the precise amount of the influ-
ence contributed by each particular sense, in the promotion of
mental growth, it may be said, in general terms, that the degree of
development will depend upon the quantity, as well as the nature
and variety of the aliment, supplied. Now, we have seen that as m
to nature and variety, the simple cognitions furnished by the sense
of touch, are, with the exception of light, shade, and color, pre*
cisely the same as those furnished by sight, so that there is really
but a small class of such cognitions shutout from the mind in the
closing of the avenue afforded by the sense of vision ; and it is also
evident that such class is not essential to at least a partial growth
of all of the faculties enumerated above. Without the organ of
vision, the mind may have an infinite variety of perceptions and
conceptions, simple and complex ; it may group its conceptions in
numberless combinations, thus enjoying the benefits and pleasures
of imagination; it may have a consciousness of its own energies
and Operations, and give its attention to whatever is passing within
or without itself; it may have it* original suggestions of a great
first cause, of right and wrong, of self existence, personal identity,
succession, duration, time, eternity, space, power, and the like; it
may abstract, associate, and classify such cognitions, as it possesses,
store them up in its memory, judge of their relations, reflect and
reason upon them, etc,; it may exercise its power of taste, and
enjoy the pleasures of aesthetic qualities in surrounding objects,
so far as they are perceptible to the remaining senses; it may feel
emotions of pleasure and pain, possess desire, and experience the
various passions and affections which are the natural endowments
of all human souls. In what, then, it may be asked, consists the
loss sustained by the absence of vision ? Mainly, ih the quantity
of knowledge derived from the faculty of perception, especially
that kind of knowledge which ministers to the development of the
aesthetic sense, and the ready appreciation and use of figurative

We say, mainly in quantity of knowledge, because the notions
which are derived exclusively from the operations of tbe visual
sense, are extremely limited in number. It is through the acquired
perceptions of sight that very much of the knowledge which is

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attainable through the other senses, by a slow and difficult process,
is gathered into the mental store-house with superidr facility, and
hence, in greater profusion. It was said, in another place, that the
sense of sight might well be regarded as an almost indefinite ex-

Online LibraryIndianaAnnual reports of the officers of state of the State of Indiana, Part 1 → online text (page 35 of 40)