chapter  VII
42 Pages

"CHANCE" AND "IMITATION"·

THE experiments described heretofore proceed in general very simply and somewhat in the same manner. As those in the next chapter are of a rather different nature, it seems to the point to mention beforehand certain considerations which will ward off some facile objections against the real meaning and value of the facts. This would not be necessary in the case of results of a highlydeveloped experimental science like physics, in which the meaning of groups of observations cannot long remain altogether a matter of controversy. A system of knowledge which cannot be lost stands there firm and clear; and new' discoveries must connect up with it in one way or another. No one can deny that we are far from such a happy state of affairs in the higher psychology. Instead of sure and fruitful knowledge, we have, so far, developed for the most part nothing but theories, very generally held, it is true, but so indefinite that even their supporters would not find it easy to apply them in detail to any specific case. The more energetic, therefore, does the claim become that anyone or other of these opinions contains the principle that will explain a great number and variety of phenomena; and their loose connexion with actual experience, together with the indefiniteness of the assertions, make the more difficult the decision of a conflict,

which is still almost in the region of a battle of faith, by searching for the facts. At the same time, it is inevitable that such actual observations as here made shall lose in value. They are all too peculiar, too individual to attract the attention already given to general principles. And the indefinite nature of these principles on the one hand, added to the difficulty of really reliable observation on the other, make it possible for nearly anyone to explain anything. Thus, if there is greater interest in general principles than in facts, the facts must seem valueless; they can be explained as one wills.