Victorian London - Publications - Social Investigation/Journalism - Mystic London, by Charles Maurice Davies, 1875 - Chapter XXIX - Psychological Ladies

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CHAPTER XXIX.

PSYCHOLOGICAL LADIES .

THERE is no doubt that the "Woman's Rights"  question is going ahead with gigantic strides, not  only in social and political, but also in intellectual  matters. Boys and girls - or rather we ought to say  young ladies and young gentlemen - are grouped together  on the class list of the Oxford Local Examination,  irrespective of sex. A glance at the daily  papers will show us that women are being lectured to  on all subjects down from physical sciences, through  English literature and art, to the construction of the  clavecin. We had fancied, however, that what are  technically termed "the Humanities," or, in University  diction, " Science" - meaning thereby ethics  and logic - were still our own. Now, we are undeceived.  We are reminded that woman can say, without  a solecism, " Homo sum," and may therefore  claim to embrace even the humanities among her  subjects of study. Henceforth the realm of woman is  not merely what may be called "pianofortecultural,"  as was once the case. It has soared even above art,  literature, and science itself into what might at first [-229-] sight appear the uncongenial spheres of dialectics and  metaphysics.
    Professor G. Croon Robertson recently commenced  a course of thirty lectures to ladies on Psychology  and Logic, at the Hall, 16, Lower Seymour Street,  Portman Square. Urged, it may be, rather by a  desire to see whether ladies would be attracted by  such a subject, and, if so, what psychological ladies  were like, than by any direct interest in the matters  themselves, I applied to the hon. secretary, inquiring  whether the inferior sex were admissible ; and was  answered by a ticket admitting one's single male self  and a party of ladies a discrétion. The very entrance  to the hall - nay, the populous street itself-removed  my doubts as to whether ladies would be attracted by  the subjects; and on entering I discovered that the  audience consisted of several hundred ladies, and two  unfortunate - or shall it not rather be said privileged? - members of the male sex. The ladies were of all ages, evidently matrons as well as spinsters,  with really nothing at all approaching a "blue stocking"  element ; but all evidently bent on business.  All were taking vigorous notes, and seemed to follow the Professor's somewhat difficult Scotch diction at least as well as our two selves, who appeared to represent not only the male sex in general, but the  London press in particular.
    Professor Robertson commenced by a brief and  well-timed reference to the accomplished Hypatia, [-230-] familiar to ladies from Kingsley's novel - in the days when ladies used to read novels - and also the Royal ladies whom Descartes and Leibnitz found apter disciples than the savants. It was, however, he remarked,  an impertinence to suppose that any apology  was needed for introducing such subjects before ladies.  He plunged therefore at once in medias res, and  made his first lecture not a mere isolated or introductory  one, but the actual commencement of his  series. Unreasoned facts, he said, formed but a mere  fraction of our knowledge - even the simplest processes  resolving themselves into a chain of inference.  Truth is the result of logical reasoning; and not  only truth, but truth for all. The sciences deal with  special aspects of truth. These sciences may be  arranged in the order- 1. Mathematics; 2. Physics ;  3. Chemistry; 4. Biology - each gradually narrowing  its sphere ; the one enclosed, so to say, in the other,  and each presupposing those above it. Logic was presupposed  in all. Each might be expressed by a word  ending in "logy," therefore logic might be termed  the "science of sciences." The sciences were special  applications of logic. Scientific men speak lightly of  logic, and say truth can be discovered without it.  This is true, but trivial. We may as well object to  physiology because we can digest without a knowledge  of it; or to arithmetic, because it is possible  to reckon without it. Scientific progress has been  great; but its course might have been strewn with [-231-] fewer wrecks had its professors been more generally  logicians. But then logic presupposes something  else. We have to investigate the origin and growth  of knowledge - the laws under which knowledge comes  to be. Under one aspect this science - psychology should  be placed highest up in the scale; but under  another it would rank later in point of development  than even biology itself, because it is not every being  that thinks. This twofold aspect is accounted for  by the peculiarity of its subject-matter-viz., mind.
    The sciences are comparatively modern. Mathematics  but some 3000 or 4000 years old; physics,  three centuries ; chemistry, a thing of the last, biology  only of the present century. But men philosophized  before the sciences. The ancient Greeks had but one  science - mathematics. Now men know a little of  many sciences ; but what we want is men to connect -  to knit together - the sciences; to have their knowledge  all of a piece. The knowledge of the ancient  Greek directed his actions, and entered far more into  his daily life than ours does. This, he observed, was  philosophy. This is what we want now; and this  is what is to be got from psychology. There is not  a single thing between heaven and earth that does  not admit of a mental expression ; or, in other words,  possess a subjective aspect, and therefore come under  psychology.
    This, in briefest outline, is a sketch of the "strong  meat" offered to the psychological ladies. A single [-232-] branch of psychology - that, namely, of the intellect,  excluding that of feeling and action - is to occupy ten  lectures, the above being number one. The other  twenty will be devoted to logic.
    The next lecture was devoted to an examination of  the brain and nervous system, and their office in  mental processes. Alas, however, how different was  now the audience ! Only some thirty ladies-scarcely  more than one-tenth of those who were present at  the opening lecture - have permanently entered for  the course. It is no disrespect to the ladies to hazard  the conjecture whether the subject be not a little  out of range for the present. We are moving ahead  rapidly, and many foolish ideas as to the intellectual  differences of the sexes are becoming obsolete. We  have literary and artistic ladies by thousands. Scientific  ladies, in the ordinary acceptation of the term,  are coming well to the front. Possibly we may have  to "wait a little longer" before we get, on anything  like a large scale, psychological or even logical ladies.