Page 8, 3rd January 1936

3rd January 1936
Page 8
Page 8, 3rd January 1936 — NOTES &

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Points From Letters

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Precognition The prognostications of that seasonal publication Old Moore's Almanac suggest the question of foreknowledge of future events. That there arc incidents which give grounds for belief in the possibility of precognition is undoubted, but whether there is just a coincidence and nothing more between the event and the precognition is a matter that can only be decided by a knowledge of all the circumstances, and these are so many as to be practically impossible.

In dealing with precognition in last week's Spectator Mr. H. F. Saltmarsh says that "There is a large amount of excellent evidence for its reality." Referring to the journal and proceedings of the Society for Psychical Research he found 349 reported instances of apparent precognition; of these only 281 remained after a detailed examination. These 281 were distributed amongst dreams (116), hallucinatory cases (62), predictions by mediums (51), and precognitive impressions not reaching the level of hallucination (39).

It can scarcely be without significance that the data upon which Mr. Saltmarsh comments appear to be all drawn from phenomena that cannot be described as rata nal. And he further says himself that "the conclusion drawn from these figures is that precognition tends to occur most readily in states wherein the normal consciousness is more or less in abeyance."

A Manifesto A letter appealing for support of the British Institute of Philosophy has been sent to the press which contains the unexceptionable statement: "We have seen in the interval the rise of forms of political life which appear to deny those construe, tive forces which have been generally regarded as of first importance. On this and on other accounts there is pressing need to consider what the primary standards of right and wrong in the conduct of nations should be."

The signatures appended include those of Dr. Inge, Sir Oliver Lodge, Lord Rus sell, and Sir Herbert Samuel. Reading these over one is inclined to exclaim, "Physician, heal thyself!" If the result of studying philosophy is to produce no more unanimity and no more constructive policy than these names represent it cannot be said that the appeal carries much force. It is the anarchy among contemporary modern philosophers that is one of the chief causes of the present confusion.

Contempt Of Metaphysics

It is difficult to envisage the British Institute of Philosophy coping with the "existing disorganisation of beliefs in fundamental principles in every department of life," to which it refers. What contribution of a stable and abiding kind have recent British philosophers made in metaphysics? This science, pre-eminently the science of first principles, has been the classical joke of British philosophy.

"There is a word," said the Rev. Sydney Smith, "of dire sound and horrible import, which I would fain have kept concealed, if I possibly could, but as this is not feasible I shall even meet the danger at once, and get out of it as well as I can. The word to which I allude is that very tremendous one of 'metaphysics,' which in a lecture on moral philosophy seems likely to produce as much alarm as the cry of 'fire' in a crowded playhouse."

To-day we witness the British Institute of Philosophy bewailing the "disorganisation of beliefs in fundamental principles" precisely because metaphysics has been regarded as something of a joke—even if a grim joke—by British philosophers for so long.

Medimval Merriment We feel a lot of sympathy with Mr. St. John Ervine when he declares, in the Observer, that "much nonsense is written about the merriment of the middle ages by persons, such as Mr. Belloc and Mr. Chesterton, who know little or nothing about it, and Dr. G. G. Coulton has exposed this nonsense so clearly that no one but Mr. Belloc and Mr. Chesterton any longer pretends to believe in it." But Mr. Ervine admits in the same article that the people of the middle ages could both dramatise and enjoy their faith. " They showed the fun as well as the mystery." Commenting on a definition of the word "carolas "a song with a religious impulse that is simple, hilarious, popular and modern," he says: "I beg my readers to pay attention to that word 'hilarious.' Is not a large part of the essence of true religion to be found in it? Your scowling 'saint' is an agent of the Devil, a representative of the Rationalist Association pretending to be pious, and should be disowned by every reverent person."

Certainly those who have tilted valiantly against the "Mcrrie England" myth have exaggerated the other way: the Chester Mysteries, for example, somehow do not fit into the picture given by some of these learned historians. In estimating the spirit of an age recourse must be had not only to registers and parish-rolls hut also to such popular compositions as the miracle and morality plays, carols and folk-dances.

Mary Macarthur

It was 15 years ago on New Year's day that Mary Macarthur died. Unfortunately the memory of the public is so short, and the pace of modern life so swift, that to many the name means little to-day, but thousands of women workers all over the country still honour the memory of one to whom they owe very much.

Short her life certainly was (she was barely 40 when she died), but few have accomplished half of what she did in that brief space. Her entire time and energy was devoted to the improvement of the conditions of women in industry, to fighting the appalling sweated labour so prevalent at the beginning of the century. Nor was her struggle vain, for she created a powerful organisation to carry on the fight, and time and time again (as among the chain-makers of Cradley Heath) she was successful in winning ameliorations that previously had been hut a dream.

If the position is still far from satisfactory, it is largely because no other such dynamic personality has arisen to take the place of Mary Macarthur, whose memory it is fitting we should hold in benediction and love.

Ridiculing The Rustic

Mr. J. H. Wain, president of the National Farmers' Union, complains that nursery times hold farmers and other rural workers up to ridicule, and cause townspeople to look down on them.

We can hardly believe that Mr. Wain was not joking, but, in case his sense of fun had temporarily deserted him, we offer a crumb of comfort.

Assuming (what we do not think is true) that the offending rimes—Little Bo-Peep and the rest—are of urban origin, their " ridiculing of country people can be explained by the same consideration that unconsciously prompts the English to ridicule the Welsh, the Levantines the Armenians, and all the world the Jews: the general superiority in intelligence and ability of the Welsh, the Armenians and the Jews over their neighbours. In a battle of wits the countryman in the long run wins: so the townsman fears and belittles him.

A Soviet Decree A prominent Russian educationist has given an interesting interview on the recent decree of the Soviet government and communist party to establish a uniform school dress for soviet school children, says the Daily Worker. "From the educationists' point of view," he declares, " this decision to have a uniform school dress

has tremendous value. It will make for good discipline, as the boys and girls themselves will see the necessity to be neat. tidy and workmanlike at their studies. It will also make them proud of their school."

Well, well, well! This latest soviet reform has been a blight among English middle-class schools for many years now, and the reasons for its adoption in Russia are irreproachably " bourgeois." However, now that communists go in for schooluniforms perhaps non-communist schools will give them up: thus do all things work together for good.

Wanted : A Dictator !

Di. Ambedkar, one of the Hindu "Untouchables' " leaders, who has been expressing his views regarding the need to find a religion suitable to India, has declared that in present circumstances it is impossible to gel a dictator on social or religious matters, and so he despairs of the future of his country.

Dr. Ambedkar's difficulty in finding anyone to fill the role of dictator is strange to us, seeing that our trouble arises from the number of candidates for such a post. Evidently he is not acquainted with the publicists who day by day and week by week in the press dogmatically settle the affairs of the universe, including India. It is true that some of those who a little while ago were particularly articulate now speak with less centainty, but there is no lack of successors to take their place. We would recommend the doctor to make enquiries among the younger members of our universities, or among those who have just come down.

Is Taste An Index Of Age?

An American scientist has been experimenting with the sense of taste and has arrived at the conclusion that with the increase of age there is a perceptible decrease in the sensitiveness of this sense. According to him. the surface of the tongue and parts of the inner surface of the mouth are covered with " taste buds " to the number of two or three hundred, each of which has its own specific chemical irritant producing in turn the sense of sweetness, bitterness, and so forth. After middle age these alleged " taste buds" show a marked decrease in number and some very old people have none at all. This would seem to receive confirmation from the reluctance shown, especially by young people, to take certain unpleasant medicines; and it may help to explain why adults experience no repugnance from whisky, rum, or stout, which are apt to arouse a goodly number of " bitter buds " in the mouths of the young.

But how on earth long, and with what complicated experiments, did the American scientist take before he discovered that old people tend to lose their sense of taste?

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