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INQUIRY CONCERNING AN ORGAN FOR THE FEELING OF THE LUDICROUS, DISTINCT FROM THAT OF WIT.
(From a Correspondent.)
The feeling of the ludicrous has hitherto, we know, together with the perception of difference, been considered a function of the faculty of Wit.
To this, however, there have always been, we think, several very important objections. The feeling of the ludicrous appears to possess all the characteristics of an original specific feeling, not resolvable into any other feeling, or into any combination of feelings. If then nature, so far as we can discern, has established, in every other instance, a connexion between a primitive feeling and a cerebral organ ; if to each of the primitive feelings of Self-esteem, Love of Approbation, Cautiousness, Benevolence, Veneration, Hope, &c. she has assigned a material instrument on which its operations are made to depend, does it not appear a very reasonable conclusion, that for the feeling of the ludicrous, which to all appearance is as much an original feeling as any of the other sentiments, there should be found a similar material accompaniment ?-that, in short, a separate organ for the feeling of the ludicrous is yet a desideratum in the system of Phrenology?
To ascribe to the faculty of Wit the generically different functions of perceiving differences, and of giving the feeling of the ludicrous, has ever appeared to us to be quite inadmissible, as confounding the function of an intellectual with that of a sentimental faculty. We presume, therefore, to intrude upon your notice our thoughts upon this subject, not as by any means professing to settle, but as only making an attempt to stir the question respecting an organ for the ludicrous distinct from that assigned to Wit, being encouraged to think, by what we have seen, that the result of observation
will be, not only the discovery of such an organ, but likewise the ascertainment of this point as to the faculty of Wit,whether it be a sentimental or an intellectual faculty, as it has ever appeared to us absolutely necessary that it be considered as belonging wholly, and exclusively either to the one class or to the other. We are very much averse to the idea of Wit being a mongrel faculty, partaking both of intellect and of sentiment, as in so viewing it we make it quite an anomaly in our mental constitution. If its function be to give the feeling of the ludicrous, then unquestionably it is a sentiment, and ought to be classed with that genus of feelings. If, how. ever, discrimination be its function, then it ought to be classed with the intellectual faculties.
We were at one time disposed to class this organ and faculty of Wit with the sentiments, and to consider its function as confined to that of giving the feeling of the ludicrous,--of infusing, as it were, the essence of drollery into the expression of the countenance and gesture, and likewise into conversation, and to imagine, that with other faculties it combined in producing what is called Humour, and to seek for the function of discrimination from some other faculty.
When reflecting on the functions of the organ and faculty of Comparison, there appeared to be some reason for concluding, that in the perception of resemblance, the perception of differences was necessarily, or at least very probably implied. Difference appearing to be but, as it were, a negation of resemblance, we were disposed to conclude, that when you perceived the points of resemblance between two or more objects, you, at the same time, necessarily perceived the points of dissimilarity, just as when with your organ of vision you at the same moment perceive both light and shade. This, however, is but one more of the many proofs that we have of the inadequacy of metaphysics of itself to lead to an accurate system of mental philosophy. The reflections of the metaphysician on the objects of his own consciousness, however, are not to be despised, as, when corrected and modified by observation and patient induction, they may lead to very important results. It was by subsequent observation that we were convinced, that to the faculty of Comparison we cannot look for the perception of differences,-an innumerable multitude of facts presenting themselves in decisive proof of this proposition, that a man may be quite expert in perceiving resemblances, and in tracing analogies, while he is, at the same time, almost completely destitute of discrimination. If it were, as we once imagined, the business of Comparison to perceive both resemblances and differences, it is evident, that the one function should at all times be equal in endowment with the other, and that both functions should exist, and be manifested in equal proportion to the size and activity of the organ of Comparison. By stubborn facts, however, this notion of comparison perceiving differences as well as resemblances is most decisively contradicted. One instance may be adduced as very remarkable, in the case of a person with whom we happen to be well acquainted, and who possesses a very large and prominent organ of Comparison. His forehead retreats abruptly on each side of the organ of Comparison, and thereby indicates not more evidently the place and size of Comparison, than a strongly-marked deficiency of Causality, and especially of Wit. In correspondence with the external appearance of the organ, there is not in his illustrations a more marked predominance of resemblances, and analogies, than there is a deficiency of discrimination. From which, as well as from many similar facts, it seemed reasonable to conclude, that the faculty which perceives difference, is not the same as that which perceives resemblances.
Being forced to relinquish Comparison, we sought the solution of our difficulty from Causality. In the perception of the relation of cause and effect, however, we could not find any thing which necessarily implied a perception of differ
There are many instances to be met with of very good reasoning from very bad premises, thereby indicating a very good reasoning faculty, without the power of discrimi. nation necessary to discern the difference between good and bad premises. In endeavouring to convince ourselves, that the operations of Causality were sufficient to account for the perception of differences, we argued, that, perhaps, the per. ception of dissimilarity between two things, prima facie similar, is the result of a train of reasoning ; but if two things are prima facie similar, in the supposition that a train of reasoning is requisite to perceive the dissimilarity between them, a very important query arrests our attention. Seeing the mind is not always on the alert to hunt after differences between things that appear to resemble each other, what is it that gives the mind the hint necessary to excite it at one time more than another, to engage in the pursuit after arguments to evince the dissimilarity between two or more things prima facie similar ? If the things appear to be similar, what could suggest the idea of seeking arguments to prove their dissimilarity, if it be not some lurking suspicion that the similarity is only apparent ? And if there is any such lurking suspicion of dissimilarity, whence comes it ? Does it not seem to take its rise in the operation of a faculty evidently separate and distinct from the reasoning faculty ? If so, then the necessity of ratiocination is superseded by the operation of a faculty formed by nature intuitively to perceive dissimilarity,-a faculty the function of which could not be performed by any process of reasoning whatever. If there is any reasoning in the matter, therefore, it is subsequent to a previous perception of dissimilarity; the object of which is to convince, not ourselves, but others, of the difference between two things, apt, by common minds, to be confounded. By such reasonings as these did Mr William Scott's very ingenious views concerning the faculty of Wit approve themselves to our mind, the primitive function of which, he says, is to distinguish differences.
That the organ of this faculty should be found in the immediate neighbourhood of Causality, is not only very reasonable à priori, but it likewise appears to be confirmed by obVol. IV.No XV.
servation; but that the faculty itself, which, from the function now ascribed to it, is evidently intellectual, should have over and above added to it a function not less evidently belonging to a sentimental faculty, that of giving the feeling of the ludicrous, appears to be quite inadmissible.
From this view of the faculty of Wit, as giving the feeling of the ludicrous, we dissent for three reasons :
I. Because such an account of the faculty appears to be quite unphilosophical, inasmuch as it confounds the function of an intellectual with that of a sentimental faculty.
In the sentiments of some Phrenologists concerning the function of this faculty there seems to be no small confusion. “ This faculty,” says Mr Combe, “is treated as an intellectual “power in Dr Spurzheim's English work; but in his French
works, subsequently printed, it is considered as a sentiment. “ He regards it as giving the feeling of the ludicrous, and pro“ ducing the tendency to represent objects under this aspect, in “the same way as Ideality gives the feeling of the beautiful “ and also the tendency to elevate and adorn all the conception « of the mind.”
In ascribing a place to an organ, or a function to a faculty, it has always appeared necessary in this doubtless we may be mistaken) to give it either wholly and exclusively the place and function of a sentiment, or wholly and exclusively the place and function of an intellectual faculty. Now we know, that it is the office of an intellectual faculty either to perceive objects external to the mind, to form conceptions of things, or to discover relations, not necessarily connected with any feeling whatever; and that it is the work of a sentimental faculty to give some species of feeling, without forming any idea either of perception, conception, or relation. Dr Spurzheim, aware as he undoubtedly is of this difference between - intellect and sentiment, seems to vacillate between the opinion of Wit being a sentimental and of its being an intellectual faculty, or to settle down into the opinion of its being a sort of mongrel faculty, possessing the double and heterogeneous functions both of intellect and sentiment. For “ Wit, ac