« PreviousContinue »
spectator of the nervous unfolding. But of course there is no spectator, passive or otherwise. The advanced thinker himself vanishes into advanced thoughts. The nerves are all and in all. The preparation of this paper has been attended by some thoughts; but that thought at most was only the sign to nobody that the nerves were at work. If, then, any advanced nerves should produce a feeling of dislike to anything therein recorded, the nerves which produced this paper produce also the hope that the advanced nerves will supplement the dislike by producing the soothing conviction that it is all a necessary nerve-process. Finally, if any advanced thinker should escape from his nerves so as to become capable of logical reasoning, we request, as a great favour, and as a duty to advanced science, that he show where the logic of these conclusions fails. We have learned by heart the various assurances that truth can do no harm. We fear also that this half-heartedness, this dallying with compromise, this sewing of the new cloth to the old garment, prevents us from reaping the fulness of blessing which advanced science has procured for us. Moreover, it is bringing advanced science itself into discredit. When an advanced thinker begins to descant on duty, there are sundry advanced actors who say with Gretchen, though by no means in her spirit, “That's about what the preacher says, only with rather different words." Then follow sundry brutal sneers about a chromo-religion. And the theologians, too, are beginning to take heart. A few years ago they were pretty thoroughly cowed, or at least bullied; but now that the advanced thinkers have been so illogical as to lay stress on duty and religious sentiment, they are bringing out their degrading dogmas with the old assurance. And it must be confessed that Christianity can outdo advanced science on the field of instinct and sentiment. Besides, we who have followed the prophets of the new dispensation out of the theological and illogical Egypt, ought not to be left in the desert without manna and without sight of the promised land. Our nerves, however, will not stop without jotting down the remark that they are not able to produce much expectation in this direction, owing, of course, to the illogical ways of nerves in general and their nascent motor excitations, And even this will not satisfy them, but they must add that at present logic is not the strong
point of advanced thinkers. They are sentimental, ethical, religious, and highly prejudiced; but they are not logical. So strong are their tendencies to worship that some of the stricter positivists have taken to mixed ancestor-and-progenyworship. Strauss and Clifford have urged us to worship the Cosmos with the devotedness of the Christian in his worship; and the suggestion has been received with great favour. So fearful are they also of any contamination of selfishness that many of them will not hear of a future life lest the purity of moral action be sullied. All are full of the most engaging sentiments; but it would be of advantage to all concerned if they would for a time forego sentiment and cultivate logic. May the advanced nerves speedily take this direction !
BORDEN P. BOWNE.
Art. IX.- A Sober View of Abstinence. THIS article contains an endeavour to find in some of the
facts and circumstances of the case a reasonable footing for a practical abstinence from alcoholic drinks as a good rule, the dictate of common prudence and Christian benevolence. The words “ practical abstinence” or “abstinence” are used instead of “ total abstinence," inasmuch as this latter phrase, though apparently more definite, is in reality less so, because it is necessary in practice to qualify it with other words, such as “beverage,” which, again, are indeterminate, and open a wide field of discussion as to what constitutes a convivial, dietary, or medicinal use.
It is enough if abstinence can be established as the best general rule, to which use forms the exception. Our inquiry falls under three heads : first, prudential abstinence; second, benevolent abstinence; third,
I. PRUDENTIAL ABSTINENCE. The reasons for abstinence as a measure of prudence are derived (1) from physiology, (2) from experience. Let us con
I From the Bibliotheca Sacra.
1. Prudential Abstinence in the Light of Physiology.
Dogmatism here is very common, and in view of the enormous evils of drunkenness very tempting, yet caution and candour are greatly needed. In the present state of physiological chemistry we are not to look for proofs which will amount to a demonstration, but rather for evidence of tendencies. When scientific men who have spent their lives in investigating the subject speak of their knowledge as imperfect, and their conclusions as tentative, it becomes others to be modest.
1. We take up first the question as to the effect of alcohol upon the nervous system, because this is its most obvious and important effect, the effect which probably to a large degree controls all others, especially that upon the circulation and nutrition. Now what in general is this effect? Science and also experience when carefully interrogated at once answer, It is anæsthetic, or deadening. This is the perfectly well known and most prominent action of alcohol, that which makes it at once a charm and a curse, and also gives it whatever value it has. It cannot better be stated than in the language of Dr.
. E. A. Parkes of Netley Hospital, whose death in 1876 removed one of the most profound and candid observers. Speaking of the effect of alcohol on the nervous system, he says : “In most persons it acts at once as an anæsthetic, and lessens also the rapidity of impressions, the power of thought, and the perfection of the senses. In other cases it seems to cause increased rapidity of thought, and excites imagination ; but even here the power of control over a train of thought is lessened.”l
It is true in popular language this effect of alcohol is spoken of as stimulating, but in general no more misleading word could be used. Men do not drink to have their nerves excited, but really to have them partially paralysed, and if in some cases pleasurable excitement seems to follow, it is because a greater or less paralysis of the nerves controlling the circulation and mechanism of the senses and the feelings is taking place, and hence the blood moves faster, the sensibility is blunted, and the sensitiveness of the entire organism is agreeably diminished. The whole secret of the fascination which alcoholic beverages
1 Manual of Practical Hygiene, by Edmund A. Parkes, M.D., F.R.S. (4th ed., London, 1873), p. 274.
Effects of Alcohol in large and small doses.
have always had is just here. As Professor William James says: “The reason for craving alcohol is that it is an anæsthetic even in moderate quantities. It obliterates a part of the field of consciousness, and abolishes collateral trains of thought.”l Let almost any one who has been a total abstainer take even a single glass of claret, containing hardly a thimbleful of absolute alcohol, and watch critically his feelings, and he will be apt to discover a slight deadening of the sensibility. Dr. Samuel Wilks remarks: “If most persons analyse their sensations after the imbibition of any alcoholic drink they will soon discover that to describe the effect produced upon them by it as stimulating is a misnomer, and that consequently the employment of the word almost begs the whole question as to its operation and value. . . . Its stimulating effects may be regarded as nil compared with those which may be styled its sedative or paralysing ones.
In a word, alcohol for all intents and purposes may be regarded as a sedative or narcotic, rather than a stimulant."2 And he points out as evidence the fact that an attack of toothache, for example, which a stimulant would increase, is relieved by a little brandy and water ; that a drunken man may have his teeth knocked out in a brawl, and be unconscious of his loss; and that a violin soloist about to perform will find his notes blurred, his sensibility benumbed, and the edge taken off his bow by a single glass of wine. Similar are the statements of Sir William Gull, who speaks of alcohol as being beneficial in certain conditions when the nervous system needs to be deadened. It is this which gives it value in certain diseases.S
But while no one doubts that any considerable quantity of alcohol is an anæsthetic, producing narcosis, and ultimately, if large enough, coma and death, the critical and all-important question arises, Do small quantities produce in proportion the same effect? Here we come to a comparatively recent theory, which claims that there is a radical difference not only in degree
, but also in kind, between the effects of a large and of a small dose of alcohol. This theory is so important, if true,
i Boston Daily Advertiser, May 19, 1881. See also Diet in Health and Disease, by Thomas K. Chambers, M.D., F.R.C.P. (London, 1876), p. 232. • Popular Science Monthly (New Issue), Supplement, Feb. 1879, p. 32.
3 Ibül. p. 13 seq.
and, though adopted by few, if any, of the great authorities on the subject, is so repeatedly, confidently, and dogmatically urged by many semi-scientific writers as an unanswerable physiological argument in favour of moderate drinking, that it deserves very careful attention.
The theory was maintained with much persistence by Dr. Francis E. Anstie of England, who died in 1874. The pith of it, as set forth in his work on Stimulants and Narcotics, and in various medical journals, is that alcohol is a true stimulant or true narcotic according to the amount used; that there is a fundamental difference in kind between the two results of such use; that the effect of a small or stimulant" dose is indistinguishable from the effect of “the digestion of a true food," and that there is no more recoil or depression from the one than from the other; while the effect of a large or "narcotic” dose is “no less than the severance of the copula of life, ... in fact a more or less paralysis of the nervous system.
The use of even a single truly narcotic dose very probably produces a real physical damage to the nervous tissue, which absolutely requires a certain time for its repair.”1
Now, if this distinction in kind exists, and if this sharp line is to be drawn between the stimulant and narcotic, the food and poison effect of alcohol, according to the amount taken, the marks of these effects must be distinct. It becomes, therefore, of the first importance to determine what are the earliest and precise symptoms of each effect. Investigation on this point is not complete ; but it is agreed that narcotism by alcohol first produces paralysis of the vaso-motor nerves.? Flushing of the face is mentioned by most observers as the first sign of this. "The most conspicuous of the primary actions of alcohol is a dynamic narcosis of the ultimate fibres of sensation and of vaso-motion-most conspicuous because exhibited in the cutaneous surface under our eyes."
“ The first warning of alcoholic inebriation is flushing of the face;" ..
1 Stimulants and Narcotics : their Mutual Relations, by Francis E. Anstie, M.D., M.R.C.P. (Philadelphia, 1865), p. 218, and passim.
2 “Nervous filaments, principally from the sympathetic system, accompany the arteries in all probability to their remotest ramitications. These * vaso-motor' nerves play an important part in regulating the function of nutrition.”—Flint's Physiology (New York, 1876), p. 67.
3 British and Foreign Medico-Chirurgical Review, vol. lviii. p. 2. 4 Stimulants and Nurcotics, p. 171.