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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
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.