Stories from Everybody’s Magazine

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Author: Various

The Question "How?" {Page 205-208}

By WILLIAM HANNA THOMSON, M.D., LL.D.

Author of " Brain and Personality," "What is Physical Life?" etc.

Physician to the Roosevelt Hospital; Consulting Physician to the New York State Manhattan Hospital for the Insane; formerly Professor of the Practice of Medicine and Diseases of the Nervous System, New York University Medical College; Ex-President of the New York Academy of Medicine, etc.

IN one of Carlyle’s earliest productions, dealing with the philosophy of Clothes, he showed that a man quite plainly reveals his inner self by what he wears. So we would now discuss what the being, Man, reveals about himself by his eternal question, "How?"

As language is a lofty endowment and, moreover, on this earth exclusively human, we would lead up to the subject by stating what the parts of speech are.

According to the Arabs, who surpass all other peoples in the study of language—for they claim that they have twenty-five thousand books on grammar in their literature—the parts of speech are three; and, as one of their old scholars states, this threefold division of speech is not confined to one language, but is universal, because human speech does not differ with the difference of human tongues. These three parts are: first, nouns—the names of things; second, verbs—the names of events; and, third, the partitives—or the words which express the relations of things to events. Thus the most abstract of verbs, "to be," refers to an event; for when a man says, "I am," he is mentioning an event in the history of the universe which did not occur till he existed.

This division, however, necessitates that the adjectives should be regarded as nouns; and so they are classed in all Semitic languages, as the Hebrew, the Arabic, the Syriac, etc. The writers of the New Testament, therefore, could not write Greek without continually falling into their native Hebrew idiom; so that if the passages were translated literally, some modern expositions would have to be much modified. Thus, "Who created the worlds by the word of his power" means "Who created the worlds by his powerful word." "The body of our humiliation" is "our humiliating body." "Who shall deliver me from the body of this death?" is "from this deadly body," as the context of the passage clearly shows. In each case the second noun is the adjective modifying the first.

Moreover, the most interesting deduction from this division of the parts of speech is that the partitives are far the highest in rank among words, because they express pure relations, which only the royal mind of man can so distinctly perceive as to make words for them. Thus, a dog can learn his own name, and understand the verbs "go" and "come," especially with the imperative tone of his master; but he could never understand the words "outgoing year" or "incoming year."

Prepositions belong to the partitives, and, with different prepositions attached to one and the same thing or noun, the human mind can step through the vast regions of thought as easily as the ether can vibrate through space. Thus the Latin scriptio, the name of a thing, a writing, gives us the following changes, according to the preposition: An Ascription is not a CONscription, by any means; nor does a conscription mean anything like a DEScription; nor is that the same thing with an INscription; nor when we PREscribe for a man are we PROscribing him; and every one of us knows, when the agent of a worthy cause enters, what the difference is between a SUBscription and a SUPERscription.

To the adverbs, however, must be given the preeminence among all human words. But even here there are gradations in rank. Thus the adverb, "Why?" may be nothing but a question of curiosity, and hence its idea may be suggested to an inquisitive monkey. But it is not so with the question, "How?" "Why?" may be answered by an affirmation, but "How?" can be answered only by a demonstration. Now, as our object is to call speech to witness as to what is in man, or, in other words, what man is himself, we will proceed to analyze the testimony of this word, "How?"

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Chicago: Various, "The Question How? {Page 205-208}," Stories from Everybody’s Magazine, ed. Hawthorne, Julian, 1846-1934 and trans. Stevens, Bertram, 1872 - in Stories from Everybody’s Magazine (Boston: John W. Luce and Company, 1911), Original Sources, accessed July 17, 2024, http://www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=CMPIN3ZLVN6LB1N.

MLA: Various. "The Question "How?" {Page 205-208}." Stories from Everybody’s Magazine, edited by Hawthorne, Julian, 1846-1934, and translated by Stevens, Bertram, 1872 -, in Stories from Everybody’s Magazine, Boston, John W. Luce and Company, 1911, Original Sources. 17 Jul. 2024. http://www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=CMPIN3ZLVN6LB1N.

Harvard: Various, 'The Question "How?" {Page 205-208}' in Stories from Everybody’s Magazine, ed. and trans. . cited in 1911, Stories from Everybody’s Magazine, John W. Luce and Company, Boston. Original Sources, retrieved 17 July 2024, from http://www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=CMPIN3ZLVN6LB1N.