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§ 4. Materialism.
Materialism is that system which ignores the distinction between matter and mind, and refers all the phenomena of the world, whether physical, vital, or mental, to the functions of matter.
A. The Doctrine of Epicurus.
Epicurus taught, (1.) That as ex nihilo nihil fit, the universe has always existed, and must continue to exist forever. (2.) That space, and the number of bodies which it contains, are infinite. (3.) These bodies are of two kinds, simple and compound. The simple bodies are atoms possessing form, magnitude, and weight. They are indivisible, unalterable, and indestructible. This is also the doctrine of modern science. Faraday172172See Youman’s Conservation and Correlation of Forces, p. 372. says, “A particle of oxygen is ever a particle of oxygen, — nothing can in the least wear it. If it enters into combination, and disappears as oxygen; if it pass through a thousand combinations, animal, vegetable, and mineral — if it lie hid for a thousand years, and then be evolved, it is oxygen with its first qualities, neither more nor less. It has all its original force, and only that; the amount of force which it disengaged when hiding itself, has again to be employed in a reverse direction when it is set at liberty.” (4.) These atoms have their peculiar forces, distinct from their mere gravity. This, too, is the doctrine of modern science. It is included in what Faraday says in the passage just quoted. “Molecules,” say the scientific men of our day, “have been endowed with forces which give rise to various chemical qualities, and these never change either in their nature or 247in their amount.”173173Croonian Lectures on Matter and Force. Given at the Royal College of Physicians, in 1868. By Henry Bruce Jones, A.M., M.D., F.R.S., London, 1868, p. 17. (5.) Epicurus taught that the quantity of matter, and of course the amount of force in the world, is always the same. Neither can be increased or diminished. (6.) The atoms, of which the number is infinite, move through space with incredible velocity under the guidance of necessary physical laws. (7.) By the combination of these atoms under the influence of gravity and other physical forces, the universe was formed, and became a cosmos. This is very nearly the nebular hypothesis. (8.) The soul is material; or, in other words, all mental phenomena are due to the properties of matter. This, also, is proclaimed as the last result of modern science. (9.) The soul, of course, ceases to exist when the body dies; i.e., as death is the cessation of the vital, so it is also of the intellectual functions of the individual. The atoms of which the man is composed, with the forces which belong to them, continue to exist, and may enter into the composition of other men. But the man, as an individual, ceases to exist. This, almost in so many words, is the avowed doctrine of many physicists of the present day. (10.) Sensation is for us the only source of knowledge. By remembering former sensations, we form ideas, and by the combination of ideas we form judgments. Almost the very words of Hume, and the doctrine of the whole school of which he is the representative. (11.) As Epicurus held that nothing is incorporeal except a vacuum, he of necessity includes all the forms of existence under the head of matter. As there is no mind or spirit, there is no God, and no moral law. Virtue is only a prudent regard to happiness. In a certain sense he admitted the existence of God's, but they were corporeal beings having no concern with the affairs of men.174174Rixner’s Geschichte der Philosophie, i. 303-318. Ritter’s History of Philosophy, translated by A. J. W. Morrison, iii. 399-447.
A recent German writer,175175F. Fabri. in Herzog's “Encyklopädie,” under the head of Materialismus, says that notwithstanding the great progress of modern science, the Materialists of our day have not advanced a step upon the system of Epicurus. That system, probably owing to the dominant influence of the higher philosophy of Plato and Aristotle, did not exert much influence on the ancient mind, or on the progress of human thought. It was not until modern times that Materialism gained any great power as a philosophical theory.248
B. Materialism in England during the Eighteenth Century.
Hobbes (1588-1679) anticipated the movement towards Materialism which manifested itself in England during the last century “He made sensation the real basis of every mental operations the sole originator of our ideas, the sole medium and test of truth.176176Leviathan, chap. i. As, therefore, we can perceive through sensation only what is material, he concluded that matter is the only reality, and that whatever exists to us must accordingly be a part of the material universe. The whole process of scientific investigation was thus reduced to the doctrine of bodies, beyond which, he maintained, there can be no knowledge whatever accessible to the human mind. This knowledge, however, does not refer simply to the existence of bodies, but also to their changes, of all which changes the ultimate principle is motion. The doctrine of bodies, therefore, includes the knowledge of all phenomena in relation to their probable causes; and of all possible causes as known from their observed effects. . . . . The mind itself he viewed as wholly material, the phenomena of consciousness being the direct result of our organization. The one great and fundamental fact of mind is sensation, which is nothing more or less than the effect of material objects around us, exerted by means of pressure or impact upon that material organization which we term the mind.”177177Morell’s History of Modern Philosohy, New York, 1848, pp. 71, 72. Thus it appears that Hobbes anticipated the great result of modern science, that all force may be resolved into motion.
The introduction of Materialism into England during the last century is generally attributed to the influence of Locke's philosophy. Locke himself was far from being a Materialist, and the advocates of his system strenuously insist that his principles have no legitimate tendency to obliterate the distinction between matter and mind. Locke, however, in combating the doctrine of “innate ideas,” in the sense of abstract truths, seemed to deny that the mind was so constituted as to apprehend truth intuitively, and beyond the range of experience. He compared the mind to a “tabula rasa.” This figure suggests that all our knowledge is from without, as the slate contributes nothing to the matter written upon it. He defined ideas to be “anything with which the mind is immediately occupied when we think.” The origin of these 249ideas, he said, was sensation and reflection. If by reflection he meant the observation of the phenomena of the mind, his theory is one thing. If it mean the process of recalling, combining, analyzing, and otherwise elaborating the impressions upon us from without, his theory is another. Probably Locke himself, and certainly many of his followers, took it in the latter sense; and thus the two sources of ideas, or of knowledge, are reduced to one, and that one is sensation. But as sensation can give us the knowledge only of what is external and material, the theory in this form seemed to leave no room for the higher ideas of eternal and necessary truths. Locke attempts to account for our ideas, of time, space, infinity, cause, and even of right and wrong, from observation, i.e., from observation of what is without, or from impressions made upon our senses. It is a common criticism upon Locke's great work, that in it he does not distinguish between the occasion and the source of our ideas. Our experience furnishes the occasion, and it may be the necessary condition, of waking the mind to the perception not only of the fact experienced, but also of the intuitive apprehension of the universal and necessary truth which the fact involves. If we did not see effects produced around us, and did not ourselves exercise efficiency, we might never have the idea of causation; but the conviction that every effect must have a cause is an intuitive judgment, which experience can neither produce nor limit. It is not from the observed tendency of some acts to produce happiness, and of others to produce misery, that we get the idea of the essential distinction between right and wrong; but from the constitution of the mind. Although Locke, and many of his disciples, were satisfied with his method of accounting for our ideas of God, of spirit, and of moral and religious truths, yet it is also certain that many of his followers felt justified on his principles to discard them.
Hartley was a physician and a physiologist. Physiology and psychology have intimate relations. It is perhaps natural that those who devote themselves specially to the former, should make little of the latter. It is the marked characteristic of our age, so far as physicists are concerned, that it tries to merge psychology entirely into physiology. Hartley adopted the principles of Locke, and endeavored to show how it is that external things produce sensation and thought. This he did by his theory of vibrations. “The objects of the external world affect in some manner the extreme 250ends of the nerves, which spread from the brain as centre to every part of the body. This affection produces a vibration, which is continued along the nerve by the agency of an elastic 'ether, until it reaches the brain, where it constitutes the phenomenon we term sensation. When a sensation has been experienced several times, the vibratory movement from which it arises acquires the tendency to repeat itself spontaneously, even when the external object is not present. These repetitions or relics of sensations are ideas, which in their turn possess the property of recalling each other by virtue of mutual association among themselves.”178178Observations on Man, chap. i. sect. 2, and Morell, p. 98. This doctrine of association of ideas is the most important part of his system. He insists principally on the following law: “An idea is sometimes associated with another through the medium of a third; but in process of time this intermediate idea may be disregarded, and yet the connection between the first and third may, notwithstanding, remain. Thus the idea of pleasure, which is so indissolubly connected with money, arises from the conveniences which it is able to procure, while in the mind of the miser the conveniences are lost sight of, and the very possession of the money itself is regarded as containing the whole enjoyment. In this way Hartley accounts for almost all the emotions and passions of the human mind. The domestic affections, for instance, arise from the transference of the pleasure derived from parental kindness to the parent itself; the social and patriotic affections from transferring the pleasures of society to the country which affords them; in like manner, also, the moral and religious affections, the love of virtue and the love of God, arise from the pleasures connected with virtuous and pious conduct, being transferred to the law of action, or to the supreme Lawgiver, from whom these pleasures have emanated.”179179Morell, p. 92. The connection of this theory with Materialism is obvious. If vibrations of the brain constitute sensation, and if the relics, or spontaneous repetitions of these vibrations constitute thought and feeling, then all mental and moral acts are mere affections of our material organism. It is also obvious that, according to this theory, there is no more freedom in volition than in sensation. The former is a mode, or relic of the latter. Although this tendency of his system was undeniable, and although his successors drew these conclusions from his principles, Hartley himself was not a Materialist. He was a very religious man. It is not at all uncommon for a man to hold a speculative theory inconsistent with his faith.
Morell180180Morell, p. 97. quotes the following criticism of Hartley's doctrine from 251the “Edinburgh Review": “There may be,” says the reviewer, “little shakings in the brain, for anything we know, and there may even be shakings of a different kind accompanying every act of thought or perception; — but that the shakings themselves are the thought or perception, we are so far from admitting, that we find it absolutely impossible to comprehend what is meant by the assertion. The shakings are certain throbbings, vibrations, or stirrings, in a whitish, half-fluid substance like custard, which we might see perhaps, or feel, if we had eyes and fingers sufficiently small or fine for the office. But what should we see or feel, upon the supposition that we could detect by our senses, everything that actually took place in the brain? We should see the particles of this substance change their place a little, move a little up or down, to the right or the left, round about or zigzag, or in some other course or direction. This is all that we could see, if Dr. Hartley's conjecture were proved by actual observation; because this is all that exists in motion, according to our conception of it, and all that we mean when we say that there is motion in any substance. Is it intelligible, then, to say, that this motion, the whole of which we see and comprehend, is thought and feeling, and that thought and feeling will exist, wherever we can excite a similar motion in a similar substance? — In our humble apprehension the proposition is not so much false, as utterly unmeaning and incomprehensible.”181181Edinburgh Review, Oct. 1806, p. 157.
If history repeats itself, so does philosophy. What the “Edinburgh Review" said of Hartley nearly seventy years ago, Professor Tyndall says of the Materialists of our day. “The passage from the physics of the brain to the corresponding facts of consciousness is unthinkable. Granted that a definite thought and a definite molecular action in the brain occur simultaneously; we do not possess the intellectual organ, nor apparently any rudiment of the organ, which would enable us to pass, by a process of reasoning, from the one phenomenon to the other. They appear together, but we do not know why. Were our minds and senses so expanded, strengthened, and illuminated, as to enable us to see and feel the very molecules of the brain; were we capable of following all their motions, all their grouping, all their electric discharges, if such there be; and were we intimately acquainted with the corresponding states of thought and feeling, we should probably be as far as ever from the solution of the problem. How are these physical processes connected with the facts of consciousness? The 252chasm between the two classes of phenomena would still remain intellectually impassable. Let the consciousness of lose, for example, be associated with a right-handed spiral motion of the molecules of the brain, and the consciousness of hate with a left-handed spiral motion. We should then know when we love that the motion is in one direction, and when we hate that the motion is in the other, but the 'Why?' would still remain unanswered. In affirming that the growth of the body is mechanical, and that thought, as exercised by us, has its correlative in the physics of the brain, I think the position of the 'Materialist' is stated as far as that position is a tenable one. I think the Materialist will be able finally to maintain this position against all attacks; but I do not think, as the human mind is at present constituted, that he can pass beyond it. I do not think he is entitled to say that his molecular grouping and his molecular motions explain everything. In reality they explain nothing.”182182“Address before British Association,” Athenæum, for August 29, 1868. Quoted by Perowne’s Hulsean Lectures, for 1868. Appendix. Note A.
Priestley owes his permanent reputation to his important discoveries in the department of physical science. He was, however, prominent during his life for the part he took in philosophical and theological controversies. Devoted to science, the senses were for him the great sources of knowledge; all others, except supernaturaI revelation which he admitted, he distrusted. He adopted with enthusiasm the theory of Hartley which resolved thought and feeling into vibrations of the brain. Hartley, he said, had done more for the doctrine of mind than Newton accomplished for the theory of the material universe. He did not hesitate to avow himself a Materialist. “Priestley,” says Morell,183183Page 102. “rested the truth of Materialism upon two deductions. The first was, that thought and sensation are essentially the same thing — that the whole variety of our ideas, however abstract and refined they may become, are, nevertheless, but modifications of the sensational faculty. . . . . The second deduction was, that all sensation, and, consequently, all thought, arises from the affections of our material organization, and therefore consists entirely in the motion of the material particles of which the nerves and brain are composed.” He was a necessitarian, and in morals a utilitarian. Believing, however, in God and in divine revelation, he admitted a future state of existence. As the Bible teaches the doctrine of the resurrection of the 253body, Priestley believed that man would be restored to conscious existence when that event occurred. His principal works bearing on this subject are: “Examination of Reid, Beattie, and Oswald,” “Doctrine of Philosophical Necessity Explained,” “Disquisitions relating to Matter and Spirit,” and “Hartley's Theory of the Human Mind, with Essays relating to the subject of it.”
Hume is regarded as their master by the most advanced physicists of the modern scientific school, so far as their general principles and method of philosophizing are concerned. He was neither a Materialist nor an Idealist, but rather a Nihilist, as his great object was to show that no certainty could be attained in any department of knowledge. He affirmed nothing and denied everything. Such knowledge as we have comes from sensation, therefore, he maintained that as we have no sensation of efficiency, we can have no idea of it, and no evidence of its reality. A cause is not that which produces an effect, but simply that which uniformly precedes it. Consequently, anything can be the cause of anything. Again, as we have no perception by the senses of substance, there can be no such thing. This applies to mind as well as matter. Nothing exists to us but our thoughts and feelings. We are “nothing but a bundle or collection of different perceptions, which succeed each other with an inconceivable rapidity, and are in perpetual flux and movement.”
C. Materialism in France during the Eighteenth Century.
The sensational philosophy, as it is called, found a much more congenial soil in France than in England. Locke's “Essay" was translated into the language of that country and made the subject of comments and lectures. His leading principles were adopted without the limitations and qualifications with which he had presented them, and conclusions drawn from them which Locke would have been the first to repudiate.
Condillac, one of the first and most influential of the disciples of Locke, in his first work, “Essai sur l’Origine des Connaissances Humaines,” differed comparatively little from the English philosopher. But in his “Traité des Sensations,” he virtually discarded “reflection" as a source of our ideas, and regarded all thoughts, feelings, and volitions as “transformed sensations.” “While he answered the question concerning the relation between the soul and body, by assuming their identity, he took theistic ground in accounting for the origin of the world. This middle ground was occupied also, at least ostensibly, by Diderot and D’Alembert in the French 254“Encyclopédie,” who, notwithstanding their sensational theory as to the source of our knowledge, and their making happiness the ground of morals and end of life, not only maintained theistic principles, but insisted on the necessity of a divine revelation. This, however, was probably more a matter of prudence than of conviction.”184184F. Fabri in Herzog’s Real-Encyclopädie, art. “Materialismus.”
These, however, were only the first steps. The extreme of materialistic atheism was soon reached and avowed. La Mettrie published his “L’Histoire Naturelle de l’Ame" in 1745, his “L’Homme Machine,” the same year, and his “L’Homme Planté,” in 1749. Helvetius published his work “De l’Esprit" in 1758. His book entitled “De l’Homme" was published after his death. The climax was reached by Baron d’Holbach in his “Système de la Nature,” in which Materialism, fatalism, and atheism were openly avowed. According to this system matter and motion are eternal; thought is an agitation of the nerves; the soul the result of our corporeal organization; the will the strongest sensation; the ground of morals a regard to our own happiness. There is no freedom, no morality, no future existence, no God. When these principles got hold of the popular mind, then came the end.
Comte, the author of the “Positive Philosophy,” was born in 1798, and died in 1859. The greater part of his life was passed in poverty and neglect. His only occupation was teaching. Ten years were devoted to the preparation of a course of lectures on philosophy which secured him wealth and fame. He called his system “Philosophie Positive,” because it purported “to assume nothing beyond the content of observed facts.”
The fundamental principle of the “Positive Philosophy" is the one so often referred to, namely, that the senses are the only source of our knowledge, hence nothing exists but matter. There is no mind distinct from matter; no such thing as efficiency; no causes, whether first or final; no God; no future state of existence for man. Theology and psychology are, therefore, banished from the domain of science. Science is solely occupied in the observation of facts, and in deducing from them the laws by which they are determined. These laws, however, are not forces operating in a uniform manner, but simply statements of the actual order in the sequence of events. This sequence is not only uniform but necessary. Our business is simply to ascertain what it is. The only method by which this can be done is observation. This task is 255much easier in some departments than in others; for in some the facts to be observed are less numerous and less complicated. In mathematics and astronomy the facts are all of one kind; whereas in physiology and sociology they are of very different kinds, and vastly more complicated. The same rule, however, applies to all departments. In all, the sequence of events is uniform and necessary; and if we can only, by a sufficient induction of facts, ascertain what the law of sequence is, we shall be able to predict the future as certainly in one department as in another. The astronomer can tell what will be the position of the stars and planets a century hence. The Positivist will he able to foretell with equal certainty how a man will act in any given circumstances, and what will be the progress and state of society in time to come.
It follows, therefore, according to the Positive Philosophy, (1.) That all our knowledge is confined to physical phenomena. (2.) That all we can know of such phenomena is, that they are, and the relations in which they stand to each other. (3.) That these relations are all included under the heads of sequence and resemblance. (4.) These relations constitute the laws of nature, and are invariable. (5.) As everything that exists is material, these laws, or “invariable relations of succession and resemblance,” control all the phenomena of mind, as we call it, and of social life and of history, as well as those of nature, in the common sense of that word. (6.) As everything is included in the department of physics, everything is controlled by physical laws, and there is no more freedom in human acts than in the motions of the stars; and, therefore, the one can be predicted with the same certainty as the other.
“The first characteristic of the Positive Philosophy is that it regards all phenomena as subjected to invariable natural laws. Our business is, — seeing how vain is any research into what are called causes, whether first or final, — to pursue an accurate discovery of these laws, with a view to reducing them to the smallest possible number.”186186Vol. i. p. 5. “Our positive method of connecting phenomena is by one or other of two relations, — that of similitude or that of succession, — the mere fact of such resemblance or succession being all that we can pretend to know; and all that we need to know; for this perception comprehends all knowledge which consists 256in elucidating something by something else, — in now explaining, and now foreseeing certain phenomena, by means of the resemblance or sequence of other phenomena.”187187Philosophie Positive, vol. ii. p. 515. “If we regard these functions [of the mind] under their statical aspect,— that is, if we consider the conditions under which they exist, — we must determine the organic circumstances of the case, which inquiry involves it with anatomy and physiology. If we look at the dynamic aspect, we have to study simply the exercise and results of the intellectual powers of the human race, which is neither more nor less than the general object of the Positive Philosophy."Vol. i. p. 11.188188Vol. i. p. 11.
Comte is obliged to use the word “power,” and to speak of its exercise, yet all his philosophy denies the existence of any such thing as efficiency. The laws which determine events are nothing more than facts of uniform sequence. According to the passage just quoted, one department of psychology (the statical) belongs to anatomy and physiology; the other (the dynamic) to the observed sequence of certain facts called intellectual. The sequence is invariable. The intervention of will is necessarily excluded, because philosophy, at least Positivism, is nothing unless it secures the power of prevision. But free acts cannot be foreseen by man. Hence Comte says, “The arbitrary can never be excluded while political phenomena are referred to will, divine or human, instead of being connected with invariable natural laws.”189189Vol. ii. p. 47. “If social events were always exposed to disturbance by the accidental intervention of the legislator, human or divine, no scientific prevision of them would be possible.”190190Ibid. p. 73.
Intellectual exercises being regarded as a function of the brain, Comte says, “The positive theory of the intellectual and affective functions is therefore henceforth unchangeably regarded as consisting in the study, both rational and experimental, of the various phenomena of internal sensibility, which are proper to the cerebral ganglia, apart from their external apparatus. It is, therefore, simply a prolongation of animal physiology, properly so called, when this is extended so as to include the fundamental and ultimate attributes.”191191See Prof. Porter’s Human Intellect, p. 54.
Comte, being an ardent phrenologist, founded one of the arguments for his system on the organization of the brain; but his great dependence was upon the law of human development. He admitted no essential difference between man and irrational animals. The superiority of man is only in the degree of his intelligence, 257which is due to his better physical organization. According to Comte, the whole human race, and every individual man, passes through three distinct stages, which he calls the theological, the metaphysical, and the positive. During the first stage all events are referred to supernatural causes. In the first part of this stage of their progress, men were fetich-worshippers; then they gradually became polytheists, and monotheists. This he endeavors to prove historically in regard to the Greeks, the Romans, and the inhabitants of western Europe. As men outgrew the fetich age, so they outgrew the polytheistic and monotheistic forms of belief. That is, they ceased to refer phenomena to the agency of supernatural beings.
During the metaphysical stage, phenomena are referred to unseen causes, to occult powers, or forces, that is, to something which the senses cannot detect. This also has passed away, and men have come to recognize the great fact that there are no spiritual agencies in the universe, no efficient causes, nothing but events to be arranged according to the laws of sequence and resemblance. The order of events is invariable and necessary. What it has been in the past, it will be in the future. As this is the law of the development of the race collectively, so it is of the individual man. Every one, in his progress from infancy to manhood, passes through these several stages, the theological, the metaphysical, and the positive. We first believe in supernatural agencies (witches, ghosts, souls, angels, etc.); then in occult causes; then only in facts discerned by the senses. The history of the race and the experience of the individual man are thus made the broad and sure foundation of the Positive Philosophy.
1. Considering that the advocates of this philosophy are a mere handful; considering that nine hundred and ninety-nine millions of the thousand millions of our race still believe in God, it is a rather violent assumption that mankind have reached the stage of Positivism. It may be readily admitted that the progress of science and of Christianity has banished alchemy, astrology, witchcraft, and necromancy from enlightened portions of our race, but it has had a scarcely discernible effect in banishing belief in mind as distinct from matter, or in efficient causes, or in God. Admitting, therefore, the principle of the argument to be correct, the conclusion arrived at is contradicted by facts.
2. The principle itself, however, is a groundless assumption. 258There has been no such development of the race, and there is no such development of the individual man, as the argument supposes. Much less is it true, as Comte maintains, that these several methods of dealing with phenomena are antagonistic and mutually exclusive; that if we believe in spiritual agents, we cannot believe in unseen, metaphysical causes; and that if we believe in the latter we cannot believe in the former. The fact is, the great mass of mankind, educated and uneducated, believe in both. They believe in God and mind, as well as in occult causes, such as electricity, magnetism, and other physical forces; which, in Comte's sense of the word, are metaphysical.
With regard to this assumed law of progress, Prof. Huxley, who is as completely emancipated from the trammels of authority as any man of science now living, says, in the first place, that Comte contradicts himself as to this fundamental principle. In proof he quotes a long passage from the “Philosophie Positive,” in which Comte teaches, — “(a.) As a matter of fact, the human intellect has not been invariably subjected to the law of the three states, and, therefore, the necessity of the law cannot be demonstrable à priori. (b.) Much of our knowledge of all kinds has not passed through the three states, and more particularly, as M. Comte is careful to point out, not through the first. (c.) The positive state has more or less coexisted with the theological, from the dawn of human intelligence. And, by way of completing the series of contradictions, the assertion that the three states are ‘essentially different and even radically opposed,’ is met a little lower on the same page by the declaration that 'the metaphysical state is, at bottom, nothing but a simple general modification of the first.'" “Men of science,” he adds, “are not in the habit of paying much attention to 'laws' stated in this fashion.”192192Lay Sermons, pp. 174, 175.
After showing that the individual man does not pass through these several states, Prof. Huxley says, “What is true of the individual is, mutatis mutandis, true of the intellectual development of the species. It is absurd to say of men in a state of primitive savagery, that all their conceptions are in a theological state. Nine tenths of them are eminently realistic, and as 'positive' as ignorance and narrowness can make them.”193193Huxley’s Lay Sermons, Addresses, etc., London, 1870, No. VIII. “The Scientific Aspects of Positivism.” p. 178.
Besides, it is not true that the race of men now existing on the earth, were in their primitive state fetich-worshippers, or that they 259gradually rose to polytheism and monotheism. The reverse is true. Not only revelation, but all history and tradition, go to show that the primitive state of our race was its highest state, at least so far as religion is concerned. Monotheism was the earliest form of religion among men. To that succeeded nature-worship and pantheism, and to that polytheism. It is a historical fact that monotheism was not reached by a process of development. Monotheism was first; it gradually perished from among men, except as miraculously preserved among the Hebrews, and from them diffused through the medium of, or rather, in the form of, Christianity. It extends nowhere beyond the influence, direct or indirect, of the supernatural revelation contained in the Bible. This is a fact which scientific men should not overlook in their deductions.
3. Comte was guilty of the unfairness of confining his survey to a small portion of the nations of the earth; and that the portion too which had been brought under the influence of Christianity. If the law which he sought to establish be universal and necessary, it must have operated from the beginning in India and China as well as in Europe. The millions of those regions have not reached the monotheistic, much less the metaphysical, and still less the positive stage of development. India especially furnishes a striking refutation of this theory. The Hindus are a highly intellectual race. Their language and literature are on a par with those of Greece and Rome. Their philosophers, nearly three thousand years ago, anticipated the highest results reached by the Schellings and Hegels of our day. Yet of all the nations of the earth the Hindus are the least materialistic, or positive, in their views of nature. With them the supernatural or spiritual is alone real. The Hindus, therefore, cannot be subject to that universal and necessary law of development which is assumed as the foundation of the Positive Philosophy.
4. It is of course presumptuous and idle to attempt to reason men out of their senses, or to convince them that what their very nature teaches them is true, is utterly false and untrustworthy. This, however, Comte not only attempts, but his whole system is rounded on the assumption that our nature is a delusion and a lie. That is, it is founded on the assumption that intuitive truths are false. It is intuitively true that we are free agents. This Comte denies. It is intuitively true that there is a specific and essential difference between right and wrong. This is denied. It is intuitively true that every effect has an efficient cause. This too is denied. It is intuitively true that there is a God to whom men 260are responsible for their character and conduct. This also is denied. Had all the intellect and all the knowledge ever possessed by men and angels been concentrated in the person of Comte, it had still been folly in him to attempt to found a system involving the denial of such truths as these. The Christian is not afraid to say one thing more. It is intuitively true, to all who have eyes to see, that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, and that his gospel is the wisdom of God and the power of God unto salvation, and that it is absolutely impossible that any theory which is opposed to these divine intuitions can be true.
Another illustration of the presumptuous character of this philosophy is found in what it teaches concerning Sociology. Scientific men of all countries have long been laboriously engaged in making meteorological observations, and yet such are the number and complexity of the causes which determine the state of the weather, that no man is able to predict how the wind will blow forty-eight hours, much less, a year, in advance. The causes which determine human action in the individual and in society, are far more complex and inscrutable than those which determine the state of the weather. Yet Comte assumes to have reduced Sociology to a science, vying with mathematics in certainty. “I will venture to say,” is his confident assertion, “that Sociological science, though only established by this book, already rivals mathematical science itself, not in precision and fecundity, but in positivity and rationality.”194194Philosophie Positive, vol. ii. p. 516.
Practical Applications of Positivism.
The practical applications of this philosophy are very serious. Positivism claims the right of absolute and universal control over all human affairs; over education, politics, social organization, and religion. As the progress of science has banished all liberty of opinion or of action from the departments of mathematics and astronomy, so it must banish it from every other department of human thought and activity. Speaking of liberty of conscience, Comte says: “Negative as we now see this dogma to be, signifying release from old authority, while waiting for the necessity of positive science, the absolute character supposed to reside in it gave it energy to fulfil its revolutionary destination. . . . . This dogma can never be an organic principle; and, moreover, it constitutes an obstacle to reorganization, now that its activity is no longer absorbed by the demolition of the old political order. . . . . Can it be supposed,” he asks, “that the most important and the most delicate 261conceptions, and those which by their complexity are accessible to only a small number of highly prepared understandings, are to be abandoned to the arbitrary and variable decisions of the least competent minds.”195195Philosophie Positive, vol. ii. pp. 14, 15. This argument is conclusive. If social life, the acts of men, are as much and as certainly determined by physical laws as material changes, those who have ascertained these laws are entitled to control all other men. As it would be preposterous to allow men to build our houses or navigate our ships who would not obey the laws of nature, so it would be absurd, on this hypothesis, to allow those ignorant of social laws to govern society. Comte avows his admiration, not of popish doctrine, but of the papal organization, which in the new order of things he proposes to continue. “Papal infallibility,” he says,196196Ibid. vol. ii. p. 268. “was a great intellectual and social advance.” Prof. Huxley pithily characterizes Positivism, in this regard, as “Catholicism minus Christianity.”
Religion is not excepted from this absolute subjection. The Positive Philosophy, as it denies the existence of the soul and the being of God, would seem to leave no place for religion. Comte placed on the title-page of his “Discours sur l’Ensemble du Positivisime,” the announcement that his design was to reorganize society “sans Dieu ni Roi.” Nevertheless, as men must have, as they always have had, some religion, a philosophy which aspired to absolute dominion over all the departments of human life, must make some provision for this universal, although imaginary, necessity of our nature. Comte, therefore, published a catechism of religious belief, and a ritual of religious worship. The object of worship was to be the aggregate of humanity formed by the absorption of the successive generations of men. Every great man has two forms of existence: one conscious before death; the other after death, unconscious, in the hearts and intellects of other men. The God of the Positive Philosophy is, therefore, the aggregate of the memories of great men. “Undoubtedly,” says Huxley, “‘Dieu’ disappeared, but the ‘Noveau Grand-Être Suprême,’ a gigantic fetich, turned out bran-new by M. Comte's own hands, reigned in his stead. ‘Roi’ also was not heard of; but in his place I found a minutely-defined social organization, which, if it ever came into practice, would exert a despotic authority such as no sultan has rivalled, and no Puritan presbytery in its palmiest days could hope to excel. While, as for the ‘culte systématique de l’humanité,’ I, in my blindness, could not distinguish it from sheer Popery, with 262M. Comte in the chair of St. Peter, and the names of most of the saints changed.”197197Lay Sermons, etc., p. 164.
There are, however, to be two forms of worship, the one private, the other public. The special object of the former is woman, because she is the most perfect representative of humanity. As “Mother, she excites veneration; as wife, affection, and as daughter, kindness. To excite these sentiments, ideal woman is to be worshipped. Humanity, or the memory of great men, is the object for public worship, regarding which minute details are given. The new religion is to have ten sacraments, a peculiar architecture, and an extended hierarchy, under the control of one absolute High Priest. Such is the system which Comte was allowed to believe would supersede the gospel of Jesus Christ. It has already almost passed away. Among the advanced men of science in England there is scarcely one so poor as to do it reverence.198198Professor Huxley says: “For these sixteen years, it has been a periodical source of irritation to me to find M. Comte put forward as a representative of scientific thought; and to observe that writers whose philosophy had its legitimate parent in Hume, or in themselves, were labelled ‘Comtists,’ or ‘Positives,’ by public writers, even in spite of vehement protests to the contrary. It has cost Mr. Mill hard rubbings to get that label off; and I watch Mr. Spencer, as one regards a good man struggling with adversity, still engaged in eluding its adhesiveness, and ready to tear away skin and all, rather than let it stick. My own turn might come next; and, therefore, when an eminent prelate of the other day gave currency and authority to the popular confusion, I took an opportunity of incidentally revindicating Hume’s property in the so-called ‘New Philosophy’ and at the same time of repudiating Comtism on my own behalf.” – Ut supra, p. 165. The mistake complained of as a very natural one, as Comte and Hume have so much in common. Professor Huxley’s quotation from Faust is in point here: – “Ungefähr sagt das der Pfarrer auch Nur mit ein bischen andern Worten.”
E. Scientific Materialism.
The leading principles of the modern scientific form of Materialism are embraced, by some at least, who do not consider themselves Materialists. They, however, adopt the language of the system, and avow principles which, in their generally accepted meaning, constitute what in the history of human thought is known as Materialism.
The most important of these principles are the following, many of which, however, are not peculiar to the system.
1. Matter and force are inseparable. Wherever there is matter there is force, and wherever there is force there is matter. This proposition, at least in the first instance, is to be understood only of physical force.263
2. All physical forces, such as light, heat, chemical affinities, electricity, magnetism, etc., etc., are convertible. Light may be converted into heat, and heat into light; either into electricity, and electricity into either; and so through the whole range. This is what is called the correlation of forces. Count Rumford, in a communication to the Royal Society of London, in 1798, satisfied that the heat generated in boring cannon could not be otherwise accounted for, advanced the doctrine that heat is a peculiar mode of motion. Since then the doctrine has been generalized, and it is now the commonly received opinion that all the physical forces are resolvable into motion. This generalization, however, is not accepted by all scientific men. They find it impossible to conceive how gravitation, which acts instantaneously at all distances, can he motion. It is simply a force which tends to produce motion.
3. This motion, however, is not of a fluid, or ether, or any other imponderable substance peculiar to each particular kind of force. As sound consists in, or rather is produced by the vibrations of the atmosphere, it was natural to assume that light was the undulation of one medium, heat of another, electricity of another. This theory is discarded. The motion intended is motion in the molecules of the matter affected. When iron is heated, nothing is added to it. There is no imponderable substance called caloric. All that occurs is, that the molecules of the iron are agitated in a particular way. If the iron be magnetized, it is only a different kind of motion imparted to its constituent atoms. So of all other kinds of force. When, however, light or heat is radiated from a distant object, the motion which constitutes these forces must be transmitted through some medium. For where there is motion, there must be something that moves. And, therefore, if heat be motion in the molecules of the sun, that heat could not reach us unless there was some material medium between us and the sun.
4. The physical forces are not only convertible one into any of the others, but they are quantitively equivalent; that is, a given amount of heat will produce an amount of light or of electricity, or of any other force, which, if it could be utilized, would reproduce precisely that amount of heat. A cannon-ball, when it impinges on a target, produces heat enough to give it the velocity which it had at the moment of contact. A certain amount of light and heat derived from the sun is expended in the formation of a certain amount of wood or coal; that amount of wood or coal will furnish precisely the amount of light and heat which was expended in its production. Count Rumford experimented to determine the quantitive 264relation between motion and heat, and arrived at very nearly the same conclusion as that reached by Dr. Joule of Manchester, England, who found that one pound of matter, falling seven hundred and seventy-two feet, will produce heat enough to raise the temperature of a pound of water one degree of Fahrenheit. This is now received as the unit of force.
5. Force is indestructible. It is never increased or diminished What is lost in one form is taken up in another. Forces are, therefore, indestructible, convertible, and imponderable agents. This correlation and conservation of forces is declared by Dr. Carpenter, the eminent physiologist, to be “now amongst the best established generalizations of physical science,” and the greatest scientific triumph of the age; “thanks,” as he says, “to the labors of Faraday, Grove, Joule, Thomson, and Tyndall, to say nothing of those of Helmholtz and other distinguished continental savans.”199199See Correlation and Conservation of Forces. A collection of papers by distinguished scientific men. By Edward l. Youmans, M.D. New York, 1865, p. 405.
Correlation of the Physical and Vital Forces.
So long as this doctrine of the correlation of forces is confined to the department of physics, it is a purely scientific question, in which the theologian has no special interest. Unhappily it has not been thus confined. Dr. Carpenter, in the paper just quoted, says, “Every thoughtful physiologist must desire to see the same course of inquiry thoroughly pursued in regard to the phenomena of living bodies.”200200Ibid. p. 405. The first step in that direction, he adds, was taken by Dr. Mayer of Germany, in his remarkable treatise on “Organic Movement in its Relation to Material Changes.”
There appear to be three forms of opinion among scientific men, of the “advanced" school, as to the relation between vital and physical forces. First, there are some, of whom Dr. Carpenter is one, who hold that the forces by which vital processes are carried in, are light, heat, electricity, and so forth, but that these are directed or controlled by a force of a different kind, called “a directing agency.”
Dr. Carpenter's Theory.
Dr. Carpenter denies that there is any such thing as vitality, or vital force, or nisus formativus, or Bildungstrieb. Two germs may be selected between which neither the microscope nor chemical analysis can detect the slightest difference; yet one develops 265into a fish, another into a bird. Why is this? Dr. Carpenter answers because of a “directing agency" residing in the germ. His language is: “The prevalent opinion has until lately been, that this power is inherent in the germ; which has been supposed to derive from its parent not merely its material substance, but a nisus formativus, Bildungstrieb, or germ-force, in virtue of which it builds itself up into the likeness of its parent, and maintains itself in that likeness until the force is exhausted, and at the same time imparting a fraction of it to each of its progeny.”201201See Correlation and Conservation of Forces, p. 411. This opinion he rejects; but adds, “When we look carefully into the question, we find that what the germ really supplies, is not the force, but the directive agency; thus rather resembling the control exercised by the superintendent builder, who is charged with working out the design of the architect, than the bodily force of the workmen who labor under his guidance in the construction of the fabric.”202202Ibid. p 412. The conclusion at which he arrives is “that the correlation between heat and the organizing force of plants is not less intimate than that which exists between heat and motion. The special attribute of the vegetable germ is its power of utilizing, after its own peculiar fashion, the heat which it receives, and of applying a constructive power to the building up of its fabric after its characteristic type.”203203Ibid. p. 119. Also, New Quarterly Journal of Science for 1864.
On this doctrine of Carpenter it may be remarked, (1.) That it seems to be self-contradictory. He denies to the germ a nisas formativus, or, Bildungstrieb, and attributes to it “a constructive power.” What is the difference? The English phrase is a literal translation of the German word. (2.) He says that “heat and the organizing force of plants" are correlated, i.e., they are convertible one into the other and are quantitively equivalent; and yet the relation between them is analogous to that between a superintending builder and the strength of the workmen. According to this, the physical strength of the hod man is convertible into the intellect of the builder and is its quantitive equivalent. We do not see how this contradiction is to be avoided, unless he uses the phrases “constructive force,” “organizing force,” sometimes for the “directing agency" in the germ, and sometimes, for the physical forces which that agency controls. But if he distinguishes between the “directing agency" and “the organizing force,” then there is no correlation between the physical force and “the vital activity of the germ.”266
3. According not only to the common, but to the latest, opinion of physiologists, the germ supplies something more than “a directing agency" (which must itself be a force). It not only directs, but it effects, or produces changes. It is an operative force, acting not by, but against physical forces or chemical affinities; counteracting them as long as it continues. As soon as the germ or plant or tissue dies, the physical forces obtain ascendency and disintegration takes place. This Dr. Carpenter himself admits. The most marked characteristic, he says, which distinguishes “vital from every kind of physical activity,” is, “the fact that a germ endowed with life, develops itself into an organism of a type resembling that of its parent; that this organism is the subject of incessant changes, which all tend, in the first place, to the evolution of its typical form; and subsequently to its maintenance in that form, notwithstanding the antagonism of chemical and physical agencies, which are continually tending to produce its disintegration; but that, as its term of existence is prolonged, its conservative power declines so as to become less and less able to resist these disintegrating forces, to which it finally succumbs, leaving the organism to be resolved by their agency into the components from which its materials were originally drawn.”204204Youmans, p. 407. This does not mean that chemical agencies have no part to act in the growth and development of plants and animals, but it certainly does mean that the vital force or life is an agency or power different from any kind of physical force. Life and physical force, therefore, are not identical. They are not correlated. The former is not a mere form of the latter.
On of the most eminent of living physiologists is Dr. John Marshall, and he, although far from belonging to the old school, distinctly takes the ground that there is a vital force which cannot be resolved into any of the physical forces operative in the external, inorganic world. He says:205205Outlines of Physiology, Smith’s Philadelphia edition, 1868, p. 932. “All the strictly physical processes within the body, whether chemical, mechanical, thermic, electric, or photic, are performed by modifications of the common force which produces similar phenomena in the inorganic world around us. There exists, however, in the living animal, as in the living vegetable organism, a special formative or organizing energy, evolving the perfect animal or plant from the primitive ovum or ovule, developing its various tissues and organs, and conserving them from the commencement to the termination of its individual 267existence. The influence of this force, moreover, extends from the parent to the offspring, generation after generation.” This is the commonly received doctrine, that physical phenomena are to be referred to physical forces; vital phenomena to vital force; and mental phenomena to mind. The new doctrine, however, is that all phenomena are to be referred to physical forces, no other forces being either known or knowable.
The more advanced Opinions.
The second view adopted in reference to the relation of physical to vital force, is, that if there be any difference it cannot be known. Physical forces are known. They can be measured. They can not only be converted one into another, but can be proved to be quantitively equivalent. If any other kind of force be assumed to account for vital phenomena, the assumption is gratuitous. It is taking for granted that something exists of which we know, and can know nothing. It must, therefore, lie beyond the sphere of science and is of no importance. Even Dr. Carpenter uses such language as this: “Another class of reasoners have cut the knot which they could not untie, by attributing all the actions of living bodies for which physics and chemistry cannot account, to a hypothetical 'vital principle;' a shadowy agency that does everything in its own way, but refuses to be made the subject of scientific examination; like the 'od-force,' or the 'spiritual power' to which the lovers of the marvellous are so fond of attributing the mysterious movements of turning and tilting tables.”206206Youmans, p. 402. “If a man asks me,” says Prof. Huxley, “what the politics of the inhabitants of the moon are, and I reply, that I do not know; that neither I, nor any one else, have any means of knowing; and that, under these circumstances, I decline to trouble myself about the subject at all, I do not think he has any right to call me a skeptic.”207207“Physical Basis of Life” in his Lay Sermons, p. 158. It is thus he banishes vitality from the sphere of science, because everything, except matter and its functions, belongs to the region of the unknown and the unknowable. Prof. Tyndall and Herbert Spencer take, at times, the same ground.
But, although such writers as Dr. Carpenter, in apparent contradiction to their own admissions, acknowledge the existence of “a directing agency" in the living germ, the majority of the writers of this school refuse to recognize any such agency or force as a scientific truth. The only difference between the second and 268third views on this general subject, above referred to, is, that according to the one, the assumption of vital as distinct from physical force, is regarded as gratuitous and unnecessary; according to the other, any such assumption is declared to be unphilosophical, and to be utterly discarded. The same writer sometimes takes one, and sometimes the other of these grounds.
The Argument for the correlation of Physical and Vital Forces.
Thus Prof. Huxley, although a few years since a firm advocate of vital, as distinct from physical force, in his discourse on the “Physical Basis of Life,” takes the opposite ground. The argument is this: the elements furnished by the mineral kingdom are taken up by the plant, and, under the influence of light and heat, transformed into organized matter. The products of vegetation, starch, sugar, fibrine, etc., are purely material. This is true even of protoplasm, or living matter, or the physical basis of life, as it is called, which is elaborated by the plant out of the lifeless materials furnished by the soil and the atmosphere. There is indeed a great difference between the products of vegetation and the lifeless elements out of which they are formed. But so there is between the elements of water and water itself. If an electric spark be passed through a volume of oxygen and hydrogen gas, it becomes water, which weighs precisely as much as the volume of the two gases of which it is composed. It is oxygen and hydrogen in combination, and nothing more. Yet the properties of the water are entirely different from those of the oxygen and hydrogen. In like manner there is a great difference between the properties of the carbonic acid, the water, and the ammonia, of which the plant is composed, and the living plant itself. But as it would be unphilosophical to assume the existence of an unknown something called aquosity to account for the difference between water and its elements, it is no less unphilosophical to assume the existence of an unknown something called vitality to account for the difference between it and the lifeless materials of which living matter is composed.
In like manner all the phenomena of animal life are referred to the physical forces inseparable from the matter which composes the animal structure. It is true the functions of matter in the animal tissues are higher than in those of the plant. But the advocates of the theory under consideration, endeavor to reduce the difference between animal and vegetable life to a minimum. It is only 269the upper surface of the leaf which is susceptible of the peculiar effects of light. So it is only the optic nerve that is affected in a way which is necessary to vision. The sensitive plant contracts when touched; and so does the animal muscle when the proper stimulus, nervous or electric, is applied. In short, as all the operations of vegetable life are due to physical forces, so all the phenomena of animal life are due to the same causes.
On this subject Prof. Huxley says: “The matter of life is composed of ordinary matter, differing from it only in the manner in which its atoms are aggregated. It is built up of ordinary matter, and again resolved into ordinary matter when its work is done.”208208Lay Sermons, p. 144. By protoplasm, or matter of life, he sometimes means matter which exhibits the phenomena of life; and sometimes, matter which having been elaborated by the plant or animal, is capable of supporting life. Hence he calls boiled mutton protoplasm.
The only difference between inorganic, lifeless matter, and living plants or animals, is in the manner in which their atoms are aggregated. “Carbon, hydrogen, oxygen, and nitrogen, are all lifeless bodies. Of these, carbon and oxygen unite, in certain proportions, and under certain conditions, to give rise to carbonic acid; hydrogen and oxygen produce water; nitrogen and hydrogen give rise to ammonia. These new compounds, like the elementary bodies of which they are composed, are lifeless. But when they are brought together, under certain conditions they give rise to the still more complex body, protoplasm, and this protoplasm exhibits the phenomena of life. I see no break in this series of steps in molecular complication, and I am unable to understand why the language which is applicable to any one term of the series may not be used to any of the others. . . . . When hydrogen and oxygen are mimxed in a certain proportion, and an electric spark is passed through them, they disappear, and a quantity of water, equal in weight to the sum of their weights, appears in their place. There is not the slightest parity between the passive and active powers of the water and those of the oxygen and hydrogen which have given rise to it.”209209Ibid. p. 149. “What justification is there, then, for the assumption of the existence in the living matter of a something which has no representative, or correlative, in the not living matter which gave rise to it? What better philosophical status has 'vitality' than 'aquosity?' And why should 'vitality' hope for a better fate than the other 'itys' which have disappeared since Martinus Scriblerus accounted for the operation of the meat-jack 270by its inherent 'meat-roasting quality,' and scorned the materialism of those who explained the turning of the spit by a certain mechanism worked by the draught of the chimney? . . . . If the properties of water may be properly said to result from the nature and disposition of its component molecules, I can find no intelligible ground for refusing to say that the properties of protoplasm result from the nature and disposition of its molecules.”210210Lay Sermons, p. 151.
The doctrine, therefore, is, that carbonic acid, water, and ammonia, lifeless bodies, under certain conditions, become living matter, not in virtue of any new force or principle communicated to them, but solely in virtue of a different arrangement of their molecules. Of this living matter all plants and animals are composed, and to the properties or physical forces inherent in the matter of which they are composed, all the phenomena of vegetable and animal life are to be referred. “Protoplasm,” says Prof. Huxley, “is the clay of the potter: which, bake it and paint it as he will, remains clay, separated by artifice and not by nature, from the commonest brick or sun-dried clod.”211211Ibid. p. 142. As the brick, no matter what its shape or color, can have no properties not inherent in the clay, so vegetable or animal organisms can have no properties which do not belong to protoplasm, which, in the last analysis, is nothing but carbonic acid, water, and ammonia.
Professor Huxley is not only a distinguished naturalist, but a popular lecturer and preacher of “Lay Sermons,” and thus has become a representative man among the advocates of this new form of Materialism. He is, however, very far from standing alone. “Some of the most distinguished living physicists, chemists, and naturalists, says Dr. Beale, “have accepted this physical theory of life. They have taught that life is but a mode of ordinary force, and that the living thing differs from the non-living thing, not in quality, or essence, or kind, but merely in degree.”212212Protoplasm; or Life, Matter, and Mind, by Lionel S. Beale, M.B., F.B.S. Second edition, London, 1870, p. 3. “So long,” says the same writer, “as the advocates of the physical doctrine of life contented themselves with ridiculing 'vitality' as a fiction and a myth, because it could not be made evident to the senses, measured or weighed, or proved scientifically to exist, their position was not easily assailed; but now when they assert dogmatically that vital force is only a form or mode of ordinary motion they are bound to show that the assertion rests upon evidence, or it will be regarded by thoughtful men as one of a large number of fanciful hypotheses, advocated only by those who desire to swell 271the ranks of the teachers and expounders of dogmatic science, which, although pretentious and authoritative, must ever be intolerant and unprogressive.”213213Protoplasm, p. 4.
Not only are the operations of vegetable and animal life, according to the new doctrine, due to physical forces, but the same is true of all mental operations. If the argument from analogy is valid in the one case, it is valid in the other. If we must believe that the properties of protoplasm, or living matter, are to be referred to the mode in which its molecules are aggregated, because the properties of water are due to the peculiar aggregation of the atoms of which its elements, hydrogen and oxygen, are composed; then we must believe that all thought and feeling are due to the molecular composition and movements of the brain atoms. Accordingly, Professor Huxley, after saying that “vitality" has no better philosophical standing than “aquosity,” warns his readers that they cannot stop with that admission. “I bid you beware,” he says, “that in accepting these conclusions, you are placing your feet on the first rung of a ladder, which in most people's estimation is the reverse of Jacob's, and leads to the antipodes of heaven. It may seem a small thing to admit that the dull vital actions of a fungus or a foraminifer are the properties of their protoplasm, and are the direct results of the nature of the matter of which they are composed. But if, as I have endeavored to prove to you, their protoplasm is essentially identical with, and most readily converted into, that of any animal, I can discover no logical halting-place, between the admission that such is the case, and the further concession that all vital action may with equal propriety be said to be the result of the molecular forces of the protoplasm which displays it. And if so, it must be true, in the same sense and to the same extent, that the thoughts to which I am now giving utterance, and your thoughts regarding them, are the expression of molecular changes in that matter of life which is the source of our other vital phenomena.”214214Lay Sermons, pp. 151, 152. “Further,” he says, “I take it to be demonstrable that it is utterly impossible to prove that anything whatever may not be the effect of a material and necessary cause, and that human logic is equally incompetent to prove that any act is really spontaneous. A really spontaneous act is one which, by the assumption, has no cause [i.e. no material cause, for he admits no other]; and the attempt to prove such a negative as this is, on the 272face of the matter, absurd. And while it is thus a philosophical impossibility to demonstrate that any given phenomenon is not the effect of a material cause, any one who is acquainted with the history of science will admit that its progress has in all ages meant, and now more than ever means, the extension of the province of what we call matter and causation, and the concomitant gradual banishment from all regions of human thought of what we call spirit and spontaneity.”215215Lay Sermons, pp. 155, 156. “After all, what do we know of this terrible 'matter,' except as a name for the unknown and hypothetical cause of states of our own consciousness? And what do we know of that 'spirit' over whose threatened extinction by matter a great lamentation is arising, . . . . except that it is also a name for an unknown and hypothetical cause or condition of states of consciousness? In other words, matter and spirit are but names for the imaginary substrata of groups of natural phenomena.”216216Ibid. p. 157. “As surely as every future grows out of past and present, so will the physiology of the future gradually extend the realm of matter and law until it is co-extensive with knowledge, with feeling, and with action.”217217Ibid. p. 156. He cites the often-quoted exhortation of Hume, and enforces “the most wise advice" which it contains. “If we take in our hand,” says Hume, “any volume of divinity or school-metaphysics, for instance; let us ask, does it contain any abstract reasoning concerning quantity or number? No. Does it contain any experimental reasoning concerning matter of fact or existence? No. Commit it, then, to the flames; for it can contain nothing but sophistry and illusion.”218218Hume, Works, edit. Edinburgh, 1826, iv. p. 193.
The history of human speculation does not furnish a more explicit avowal of Materialism than that contained in the above quotations. All known effects are ascribed to material causes. Spirit is declared to have only an imaginary existence. Spontaneity is pronounced an absurdity. Necessity is affirmed to be inexorable and universal. Yet Huxley says he is no Materialist. This in a sense is true. He is not a Materialist, because he believes in neither matter nor spirit. He avows himself a disciple of Hume, who taught that we know nothing but impressions and ideas. Substance, whether material or spiritual, efficiency, and God, are banished from the sphere of knowledge to that of “sophistry and illusion.” He avows his fellowship with Herbert Spencer, the fundamental principle of whose “New Philosophy" is, that all we know, or can know, is, that force is and that it is persistent, while 273force itself is absolutely inscrutable. This blots the soul and God out of existence, except as those words indicate an unknown force. But as he also holds that all forces are convertible, the distinction between material and mental forces, whether human or divine, is obliterated. He avails himself of the common assumption that his theory does not degrade spirit, but exalts matter. It is the verdict of history, however, as Julius Mäller truly says, “That every attempt to spiritualize matter ends in materializing spirit.” On this subject Spencer says: “Men who have not risen above that vulgar conception which unites with matter the contemptuous epithets 'gross' and 'brute,' may naturally feel dismay at the proposal to reduce the phenomena of life, of mind, and of society, to a level with those which they think so degraded. . . . . The course proposed does not imply a degradation of the so-called higher, but an elevation of the so-called lower.”219219First Principles, New York, 1869, p. 556. This at least is an avowal that the phenomena of life, mind, and society are to be referred to material or physical causes. This, indeed, he repeatedly asserts. After insisting on the transformation of physical forces into chemical, and these into vital, he adds, “Many will be alarmed by the assertion that the forces which we distinguish as mental, come within the same generalization. Yet there is no alternative but to make this concession.220220Ibid. p. 211. . . . . Any hesitation to admit that between the physical forces and the sensations there exists a correlation like that between the physical forces themselves, must disappear on remembering how the one correlation like the other, is not qualitive only, but quantitive.”221221Ibid. p. 212. “Various classes of facts unite to prove that the law of metamorphosis, which holds among the physical forces, holds equally between them and the mental forces. . . . . How this metamorphosis takes place — how a force existing as motion, light, or heat, can become a mode of consciousness,” is mysterious; but he adds, it is not a greater mystery “than the transformations of physical forces into each other.”222222Ibid. p. 217.
Dr. Maudsley, a distinguished writer of the same school,223223Physiology and Pathology of Mind, Lond. 1868, p. 42. says, “Few, if any, will now be found to deny that with each display of mental power there are correlative changes in the material substratum; that every phenomenon of mind is the result, as manifest in energy, of some change, molecular, chemical, or vital, in the nervous elements of the brain.” Again, he says,224224Ibid. p. 43. “With regard to the manifold phenomena of mind; by observation of them, and abstraction from the particular, we get the general conception, or 274the essential idea of mind, an idea which has no more existence out of the mind, than any other abstract idea or general term. In virtue, however, of that powerful tendency in the human mind to make the reality conformable to the idea, a tendency which has been at the bottom of so much confusion in philosophy, this general conception has been converted into an objective entity, and allowed to tyrannize over the understanding. A metaphysical abstraction has been made into a spiritual entity and a complete barrier thereby interposed in the way of positive investigation.”
The passages quoted above are a fair specimen of the kind of reasoning in which scientific men frequently indulge. In the first quotation, there are two clauses presented as equivalent, which are in fact essentially different; and substituting the one for the other is just a silent and subtle begging of the question. The first says that every mental act is attended by a molecular change in the brain. The other in effect says, the molecular change is the mental act. These two propositions are as different as day and night. The theory is that a certain kind of molecular motion in iron is heat; and a certain kind of molecular motion in the brain is thought. And all the proof, as far as the latter is concerned, is that the one attends the other. But the formation of an image on the retina attends sight, and yet does not prove that the image is our consciousness when we see.
Again, in the second passage, Dr. Maudsley says that “mind is an abstract idea,” which has no existence outside “of the mind,” i.e., outside of itself. An abstract idea has an abstract idea, which it makes into an objective entity. Men who deny the objective existence of mind, can no more think, speak, or write without recognizing its existence, than an idealist can act without recognizing the existence of the external world. Any theory which involves a denial of the laws of our nature is of necessity absurd.
The German Physicists.
As might be expected, the scientific men of the continent are more outspoken in their Materialism than those of England. A late German writer, Th. Otto Berger, Oberlehrer fur Mathematik and Physik,225225Evangelischer Glaube, römischer Irrglaube, und weltlicher Unglaube. Gotha, 1870. says: Materialism is the philosophy of the five senses, it admits nothing but on the testimony of sensation, and therefore denies the existence of the soul, of God, and of everything supersensuous. In its modern form, it teaches that as the material is alone true and real, it is uncreated and eternal. It 275always has been and always will be. It is indestructible, and, in its elements, unchangeable. Force is inseparable from matter. According to the theory no matter is without force, and no force is without matter. No force exists of itself; and, therefore, there is none to which the creation of matter is to be referred. The universe as it now is, is due to the gradual evolution of the two elements, matter and force; which evolution proceeds under the operation of fixed laws. The lower organisms are first formed; then the higher, until man appears. All life, whether animal, vegetable, or spiritual, is due to the working of physical and chemical forces in matter. As no power exists but in matter, there can be no divine Being with creative power nor any created human soul. Berger quotes Virchow as saying, “The scientific naturalist knows only bodies and the properties of bodies.” All that is beyond them he pronounces “transcendental, and the transcendental is the chimerical.” He also quotes B. C. Vogt, as saying, “We admit of no creator, either in the beginning, or in the course of the world's history; and regard the idea of a self-conscious, extramundane creator as ridiculous.” Man, according to these writers, consists only of a material body; all mental acts and states are of the brain. When the body dies, the man ceases to exist. “The only immortality,” says Moleschott, “is, that when the body is disintegrated, its ammonia, carbonic acid, and lime, serve to enrich the earth, and to nourish plants, which feed other generations of men.”226226See Berger, I. iii. 5; part i. pp. 264 to 271.
As Materialism, in its modern form, in all that is essential to the theory, is the same that it was a thousand years ago, the old arguments against it are as available now as they ever were. Its fundamental affirmation is, that all the phenomena of the universe, physical, vital, and mental, are to be referred to unintelligent physical forces; and its fundamental negation is, that there is no such objective entity as mind or spirit. If, therefore, it can be shown that unintelligent force cannot account for all the phenomena of the universe; and that there is such an objective entity or substance, as mind, the theory is refuted. There are two methods of combating any given theory. The one is the scientific, which calls in question the accuracy or the completeness of the data on which it is founded, or the validity of the inferences deduced from them. The other is the shorter and easier method of the reductio ad absurdum. The latter is just as legitimate and valid as the 276former. It is to be remembered that every theory includes two factors; facts and principles; or, facts and inferences drawn from them. The facts may be admitted, when the principles or inferences may be denied. Thus the facts on which Materialists insist may, for the most part at least, be acknowledged; while the sweeping inferences which they draw from them, in the eye of reason may not be worth a straw. All such inferences must be rejected whenever they conflict with any well-established truth, whether of intuition, experience, or of divine revelation.
Three general theories have been proposed to solve the great problem of the universe: the Materialistic, the Pantheistic, and the Theistic. According to the first all the phenomena of the universe are due to matter and its forces; according to the second, in its most rational form, all power, activity, and life, are the power, activity, and life of the one universal mind. The third, or Theistic theory, assumes the existence of an infinite, extramundane God, who created matter, endowed with forces, and finite minds gifted with intelligence and will; and that all the ordinary phenomena of the universe are proximately due to these physical and mental forces as constantly upheld and controlled by the omnipresent wisdom and power of God. It may be doubted whether any amount of argument can deepen the conviction that the Theistic solution of this great problem is the true one. It is seen to be true, because it is seen to be a solution. It satisfactorily accounts for all the facts of consciousness and observation. It satisfies the reason, the heart, and the conscience. It is in fact self-evidently true, in the sense that no man to whom it has been once proposed, can ever permanently shake off the conviction of its truth. The other theories are not solutions. They may account for some classes of facts, but not for others. Our present concern, however, is with Materialism.
Materialism contradicts the Facts of Consciousness.
1. The primary principle of all knowledge is the knowledge of self. This must be assumed. Unless we are we cannot know. This knowledge of self is a knowledge that we are something; a real existence; not merely a state or mode of something else; but that the self is a substance, a real, objective entity. It is, moreover, a knowledge not only that we are a substance, but also that we are an individual subsistence, which thinks, feels, and wills. Here, then, is mind, i.e., an individual, intelligent, voluntary agent, necessarily included in the first, and the most essential of all truths. If this be denied, then Hume is right, and we can 277know nothing. It is, moreover, included in this knowledge of the Self, that the body is not the Ego. Although the body is intimately, and even vitally united to the substance in which our personality resides, it is nevertheless objective to it. It is the organ which the Self uses, and by which it holds communion with the external world. That these are really facts of consciousness, and not merely dicta, or arbitrary assumptions, is clear because they are universally and of necessity recognized. They are imbedded in all human languages; they are involved in all expressions of human thought; they are of necessity assumed by those who theoretically deny them. The Materialist cannot think, or speak, or write, without assuming the existence of mind as distinct from matter, any more than the Idealist can live and act without assuming the existence of the external world.
Our knowledge of mind, therefore, as a thinking substance, is the first, and most certain, and the most indestructible of all forms of knowledge; because it is involved in self-knowledge, or self-consciousness, which is the indispensable condition of all knowledge. That which knows is, in the order of nature, before that which is known. It is impossible, therefore, that the Materialist can have any higher evidence of the existence of matter, or of force, than that which every man has, in his own consciousness, of the existence of mind. To deny the one is as unreasonable as to deny the other. Neither can be denied, except theoretically. As a matter of fact, every man believes in matter, and every man believes in mind. What are our sensations which are relied upon so confidently to give us knowledge of physical phenomena, but states of consciousness? If consciousness is to be trusted in reporting the testimony of the senses, why is it not to be trusted when it reports the facts of our interior life? If it is believed when it says there is something visible and tangible without us, why should it not be believed when it says there is something which thinks and wills within us? If unreliable in the one case, it is unreliable in the other; and if unreliable in either, the whole foundation of knowledge and of all faith is swept away. Confidence in the veracity of consciousness is our only security from the wildest, the most irrational, and the most degrading skepticism.
It may be said, however, that the Materialist does not deny that there is something within us that thinks and wills. He only says that that something is the brain. This, however, is to ignore one half of the testimony which consciousness really bears. It testifies not only that there are such sensations as those of sight and 278touch, but that there is a real objective substance which is tangible and visible. That is to say, we believe in virtue of the constitution of our nature, and therefore of necessity, when we see or touch, that the objects of our sense-perceptions have a real, objective existence. This every man believes, and cannot help believing. And in like manner, when he thinks, feels, or wills, he believes, in virtue of the constitution of his nature, and therefore by a like necessity, that he himself is an intelligent, feeling, and voluntary substance. That is, he believes that the Self is mind, or spirit, to which the body is objective, and therefore different front the Self. The belief in mind, therefore, is involved in the belief of self-existence. Consciousness gives us the assurance that the Self is an intelligent, voluntary agent, or spirit.
2. Another fact of consciousness which Materialism denies, either avowedly or by necessary implication, is the fact of free agency. This, indeed, is involved in what has already been said. Nevertheless there are those who admit the existence of mind who deny that man is a free agent. It needs no proof that consciousness attests that men have the power of self-determination. Every man knows this to be true with regard to himself. Every man recognizes the fact with regard to his fellow-men. This again is a conviction which no obduracy of the conscience, and no sophistry of argument can permanently obliterate from the human mind. This, however, Materialism denies. Physical forces act necessarily and uniformly. In referring all mental action to physical forces, Materialism cannot but exclude all freedom of action. There is no spontaneity in chemical affinity, in light, heat, or electricity; yet to these forces all vital and mental phenomena are referred. If thought be a certain kind of molecular motion of the brain, it is no more free than that other kind of molecular motion called heat. And this is the more obviously true, if they are correlative, the one being changed into the other. Accordingly Materialists, as a general thing, are avowed necessitarians. This is not only true of the Positivists, but the doctrine that human action is determined by necessary laws, is the foundation of their whole system of Social Science. And Professor Huxley, as we have seen, pronounces a spontaneous act, from the nature of the case, an absurdity. It is for him a causeless effect. Every man, therefore, who knows that he is a free agent, knows that Materialism cannot be true.
3. Materialism contradicts the facts of our moral and religious Consciousness. Our moral perceptions are the clearest, the most 279certain, and the most authoritative of all of our cognitions. If a man is shut up to deny either the testimony of his senses or the truths of reason, on the one hand, or the testimony of his moral nature on the other, all experience shows that he will give up sense and reason, and bow to the authority of conscience. He cannot help it. No man can free himself from the sense of sin, or of accountability. These moral convictions involve in them, or, at least, necessitate the belief in a God to whom we must give an account. But Materialism, in banishing all mind in man, leaves nothing to be accountable; and in banishing all mind from the universe, leaves no Being to whom an account can be rendered. To substitute for an intelligent, extramundane, personal God, mere “inscrutable force,” is a mockery, an insult. Our whole moral and religious nature declares any such theory to be false. It cannot be true unless our whole nature be a lie. And our nature cannot be a lie, unless, as Sir William Hamilton says, the whole universe be “a dream of a dream.” To call upon men to worship gravitation, and sing hallelujahs to the whirlwind, is to call upon them to derationalize themselves. The attempt is as idle as it is foolish and wicked.
This argument from the facts of consciousness against Materialism, is met by the assertion that consciousness is not to be trusted. Dr. Maudsley devotes the greater part of the first chapter of his book on the “Physiology of the Mind,” to the establishment of this point. He argues that self-consciousness is unreliable in the information which it does give, and incompetent to give any account of a large part of our mental activity. lt gives no account of the mental phenomena of the infant, of the uncultivated adult, and of the insane; no account of the bodily conditions which underlie every mental manifestation; no account of the large field of unconscious mental action exhibited, not only in the unconscious assimilation of impressions, but in the registrations of ideas and of their associations, in their latent existence and influence when not active, and their recall into activity; and no account of the influence organically exerted on the brain by other organs of the body. That is, consciousness does not tell us all things, and sometimes tells us wrong. Cannot the same be said of the senses? Can they inform us of everything which goes on in the body? Do they not often deceive us? Are not the sensations of the delirious and the maniac altogether untrustworthy? Does it follow from this that our senses are never to be relied upon? What then becomes of the physical sciences, which are founded on the trustworthiness of 280the senses. The fact is that if the testimony of consciousness is not to be received as to our mental operations, it cannot be received as to our sensations. If we have no trustworthy evidence of the existence of mind, we have no valid evidence of the existence of matter; and there is no universe, no God. All is nothing.
Happily men cannot emancipate themselves from the laws of their nature. They cannot help believing the well-attested testimony of their senses, and they cannot help believing the testimony of consciousness as to their personal identity, and as to the real, objective existence of the soul as the subject of their thoughts, feelings, and volitions. As no man can refuse to believe that he has a body, so no man can refuse to believe that he has a soul, and that the two are distinct as the Self and the Not-Self.
Materialism contradicts the Truths of Reason.
1. It is intuitively true that every effect must have a cause. This does not mean merely that every effect must have an antecedent; or, as Hume says, that anything may be the cause of anything. Nor does it mean merely that every effect must have an efficient cause. But it means that the antecedent or cause of every effect must have that kind and degree of efficiency which will rationally account for the effect.
There are two general classes of effects with which we are familiar, and which are specifically different, and therefore must have specifically different causes. The one class consists of effects which do not, the other of those which do indicate design. In the latter we see evidence of a purpose, of foresight, of provision for the future, of adaptation, of choice, of spontaneity, as well as of power. In the former all these indications are absent. We see around us innumerable effects belonging to each of these classes. We see water constantly flowing from a higher to a lower level; vapor constantly ascending from the sea; heat producing expansion, cord contraction, water extinguishing fire, alkalies correcting acidity, etc., etc. On the other hand, the world is crowded with works of human intelligence; with statues, pictures, houses, ships, complicated machines for different purposes, with books, libraries, hospitals prepared for the wants of the sick, with institutions of learning, etc., etc. No man can help believing that these classes of effects are specifically different, nor can he help believing that they are due to causes specifically different. In other words, it is self-evident that an unintelligent cause cannot produce an intelligent 281effect; it cannot purpose, foresee, organize, or choose. Professor Joule may determine through what space a weight must fall to produce a given amount of heat; but can he tell how far it must fall to write a poem, or produce a Madonna? Such a cause has no tendency to produce such an effect. And to suppose it to operate from eternity, is only to multiply eternally, nothing by nothing, it is nothing still.
If every man recognizes the absurdity of referring all the works of human ingenuity and intellect to unintelligent, physical force, how much greater is the absurdity of referring to blind force the immeasurably more stupendous, complicated, and ordered works of God, everywhere indicative of purpose, foresight, and choice. Of this absurdity Materialism is guilty. It teaches, in its modern form, that to carbonic acid, water, and ammonia, with the molecular forces they contain, is the causal efficiency to which all organisms from the fungus to man, and all vital and mental phenomena, are to be referred. This is the doctrine elaborately proposed and defended in Professor Huxley's paper on the “Physical Basis of Life.” That paper is devoted to establishing two propositions. The first is, “That all animal and vegetable organisms are essentially alike in power, in form, and in substance; and the second, That all vital and intellectual functions are the properties of the molecular dispositions and changes of the material basis (protoplasm) of which the various animals and vegetables consist.”227227As regards Protoplasm in relation to Professor Huxley’s Essay on the Physical Basis of Life, by James Hutchison Stirling, F.R.C.S., LL. D. Edit. New Haven, p. 15. He even intimates, after referring to a clock which marks the time, and the phases of the moon, as an illustration of the vital and intellectual phenomena of the universe, as produced by molecular motions and combinations, “that the existing world lay potentially in the cosmic vapor; and that a sufficient intelligence could, from a knowledge of the properties of the molecules of that vapor, have predicted, say the state of the Fauna of Britain in 1869, with as much certainty as one can say what will happen to the vapor of the breath in a cold winters day.”228228See Life, Matter, and Mind, by Lionel S. Beale, M.B., F.R.S., London, 1870, p. 17. Dr. Beale quotes from a paper by Professor Huxley in the first number of the Academy, p. 13. On this it is obvious to remark, in the first place, that it is not one whit in advance of the theory of Epicurus propounded more than two thousand years ago. As the whole mass of thinking men have turned their backs on that theory from that day to this, it is not probable that the reassertion of it, however confidently made, will have much effect upon 282men who have either heads or hearts. In the second place, it gives no rational account of the origin of the universe, and of the wonders which it contains. It violates the fundamental intuitive truth that every effect must have an adequate cause, inasmuch as it refers intelligent effects to unintelligent causes; all the libraries in the world, for example, to “the properties of the molecules,” of carbonic acid, water, and ammonia.
2. A second truth of Reason which Materialism contradicts is that an infinite succession of effects is as unthinkable as a self-supporting chain of an infinite number of links. The modern doctrine is that lifeless matter never becomes living except when brought into contact with previous living matter. It is the office of the living plant to take up the dead elements of the inorganic world and imbue them with life. The plant, therefore, must either precede protoplasm, which is impossible, as it is composed of protoplasm; or the protoplasm must precede the plant, which is equally impossible, because the plant alone, in the first instance, can make protoplasm; or there must be an infinite succession. That is, an infinite number of causeless effects, which is no less impossible. The doctrine of spontaneous generation, or of life originating out of dead matter, is repudiated by the most advanced advocates of the modern form of Materialism. Professor Huxley has done the cause of truth good service by his able refutation of that doctrine.229229See his Address as President of the British Association, reported in the London Athenæum, September 17th, 1870. The little that is necessary to say on the subject of spontaneous generation in such a work as this, is reserved until the question concerning the origins of man comes up for consideration. Whatever may be the ultimate decision of the question as to the origin of life, it is enough for the present that the modern advocates of Materialism admit that living matter can only come from matter already alive. This admission, it is now urged, is fatal to their theory, as it necessitates the assumption of an eternal effect. If dead matter can only be made alive by previous living matter, there must be a source of life outside of matter, or life never could have begun.
Materialism inconsistent with the Facts of Experience.
It is generally admitted that in nature, i.e., in the external world, there are four distinct spheres, or, as they are sometimes called, planes of existence. First, the common chemical compounds, which constitute the mineral kingdom; second, the vegetable kingdom; third, the irrational animal world; and fourth, Man. It is admitted that all the resources of science are incompetent 283to raise matter from one of these planes to another. The plant contains ingredients derived from the mineral kingdom, with something specifically different. The animal contains all that is in the plant, with something specifically different. Man contains all that enters into the constitution of the plant and animal, with something specifically different. The lifeless elements of the mineral kingdom, under “the influence of preëxistent living matter,” and not otherwise, become living and life supporting matter in the plant. The products of vegetable life, in like manner, become the matter of animal tissues and organs, but only under the influence of preëxisting living animal tissues. So, also, the products of the vegetable and animal kingdoms are received into the human system, and become connected with the functions and phenomena of the intellectual and moral life of man, but never otherwise than in the person of a man. This outstanding fact, vouched for by the whole history of our globe, proves that there is something in the plant which is not in lifeless matter; somethiing in the animal which is not in the plant, and something in man which is not in the animal. To assume, with the Materialist, that the organizing life of the plant comes out of lifeless matter; that the sensitive and voluntary life of the animal comes out of the insensible and involuntary life of the plant; or that the rational, moral, and spiritual life of Man comes out of the constituents of the animal, is to assume as a fact something which all experience contradicts. We are not forgetful of the theories which refer these different grades or orders of existence to some process of natural development. We here, however, refer only to the outstanding fact of history, that, in the sphere of human experience, lifeless matter does not become organizing and living, in virtue of its own physical forces; nor the plant an animal; nor the animal a man from anything in the plant or animal, but only in virtue of an ab extra vital influence. It is indeed said that as the same chemical elements combined in one way, have certain properties; and when combined in another way, have other properties; so the same elements combined in one way in lifeless matter and in other ways, in plants, animals, and man, may account for all their distinctive characteristics. But it is to be remembered that the properties of chemical compounds, however varied, are chemical, and nothing more; whereas, in vital organisms the properties or phenomena are specifically different from mere chemical effects. They have no relation to each other, any more than gravity to beauty; and, therefore, the one cannot account for the other.284
Materialism is Atheistic.
Atheism is the denial of an extramundane personal God. In saying that Materialism is Atheism, it is not meant that all Materialists are atheists. Some, as for example, Dr. Priestley, confine the application of their principles to the existing order of things. They admit the being of God to whom they refer the creation of the world. The number, however, of such illogical Materialists is small. Leaving out of view these exceptional cases, the philosophers of this school may be divided into three classes, —
(1.) Avowed atheists. To this class belong the Epicureans; the French skeptics of the last century; the Positivists; and a large part of the physicists of the present generation, especially in Europe. (2.) Those who repudiate the charge of atheism, because they admit the necessary existence of an inscrutable force. But inscrutable force is not God. In rejecting the doctrine of an extramundane Spirit, self-conscious, intelligent, and voluntary, the First Cause of all things, they reject Theism; and the denial of Theism is Atheism. (3.) Those whose principles involve the denial of an extramundane God. To this class belong all those who deny the distinction between matter and mind; who deny the “supersensual,” and “supernatural,” who affirm that physical force is the only kind of force of which we have any knowledge; and who maintain that thought is in such a sense a product of the brain, that where there is no brain there can be no thought. Büchner, who although an avowed atheist, is, as to this point, a fair representative of the whole school, says that the fundamental principle (der oberste Grundsatz) of our philosophy is, “No matter without force; and no force without matter.” “A spirit without a body,” he adds, “is as unthinkable as electricity or magnetism without the matter of which they are affections.”230230Kraft und Stoff, Zehnte Auflage, Leipzig, 1869, p. 209. This he makes the ground of his argument to prove the impossibility of the existence of the soul after death. The principle, if admitted, is equally conclusive against the existence of God. As Materialism leaves us no God to reverence and trust, no Being to whom we are responsible; and as it denies any conscious existence after death, it can be adopted only on the sacrifice of the higher attributes of our nature; and its whole tendency must be to demoralize and degrade.
The Correlation of Physical and Vital and Mental Forces.
Besides the considerations urged above against Materialism as a general theory, it may be proper to say a few words in reference 285to its modern scientific form. It is admitted that it is the province of scientific men to discuss scientific questions; and that much injury to the cause of truth has followed the attempts of men not devoted to such pursuits, undertaking to adjudicate in such cases. Physicists are wont to take high ground on this subject, and to warn off as intruders all metaphysicians and theologians, all who are devoted to the study of the supersensuous and the supernatural. They are not allowed to be heard on questions of science. The rule must work both ways. If metaphysicians and theologians must be silent on matters of science, then scientific men devoted to the study of the sensuous, are not entitled to be dictatorial in what regards the supersensuous. A man may be so habituated to deal with quantity and number, as to become incapable of appreciating beauty or moral truth. In like manner a man may be so devoted to the examination of what his senses reveal, as to come to believe that the sensible alone is true and real. The senses have their rights, and so have reason and conscience; and the votaries of sense are not entitled to claim the whole domain of knowledge as exclusively their own.
While, therefore, it is conceded that it belongs specially to scientific men to deal with scientific subjects, yet other classes have some rights which are not to be denied. They have the right to judge for themselves on the validity of the arguments of scientific men; and they have the right to appeal from one scientific man to another, and from the few to the many. So far as the correlation of physical and vital forces is concerned, it is not only a new doctrine, but as yet is adopted only by “advanced thinkers,” as they are called, and call themselves. Dr. H. B. Jones, F. R. S., one of the more modest advocates of the doctrine,231231Croonian Lectures, p. 66. says, “We are only just entering upon the inquiry how far our ideas of conservation and correlation of energy can be extended to the biological sciences.” And certain it is that the leading men of science, both in Europe and America, are firm believers in vital and mental forces, as distinct in kind, from all physical forces operative in the inorganic world.
The Arguments for such Correlation are Invalid.
The Argument from Analogy.
It has already been stated on the authority of the advocates of the theory, that their first and most important argument in its support is from analogy. The physical forces are all correlated; 286one is convertible into either of the others; all may be resolved into motion. This creates, as it is said, a strong presumption, that all force, whatever its phenomena, is essentially the same thing. If one kind of motion is heat, another electricity, another light, it is fair to infer that vitality is only another kind of motion, and thought and feeling another. As there is no reason for assuming a specific force for light, and another for heat, therefore it is unnecessary, and unphilosophical, to assume a specific kind of force to account for vital or mental phenomena. Prof. Barker of Yale College, says,232232Correlation of Vital and Physical Forces, p. 5. “Today, as truly as seventy-five years ago when Humboldt wrote, the mysterious and awful phenomena of life, are commonly attributed to some controlling agent residing in the organism — to some independent presiding deity, holding it in absolute subjection.” This presiding agent is called “vital fluid,” “materia vitæ diffusa,” “vital force.” “All these names,” he adds, “assume the existence of a material or immaterial something, more or less separable from the material body, and more or less identical with the mind or soul, which is the cause of the phenomena of living beings. But as science moved irresistibly onward, and it became evident that the forces of inorganic nature were neither deities nor imponderable fluids, separable from matter, but were simple affections of it, analogy demanded a like concession in behalf of vital force. From the notion that the effects of heat were due to an imponderable fluid called caloric, discovery passed to the conviction that heat was but a motion of material particles, and hence inseparable from matter; to a like assumption concerning vitality [namely, that it also is but a motion of material particles], it was now but a step. The more advanced thinkers in science of today, therefore, look upon the life of the living form as inseparable from its substance, and believe that the former is purely phenomenal, and only a manifestation of the latter. Denying the existence of a special vital force as such, they retain the term only to express the sum of the phenomena of living beings.”
The argument from analogy is presented, as we have seen, in another form, by Huxley and others. The properties of water are very different from those of the hydrogen and oxygen of which it s composed. Yet no one supposes that those properties are due to anything else than the material composition of the water itself. So also the phenomena of living matter, and of the human brain, are very different from those of the elements which enter into their constitution; but this affords no presumption that there is any 287"vital force" or “mind" to account for this difference any more than the peculiar properties of water justify the assumption of the existence of anything distinct from its material element. Vitality and mind, we are told, have no better philosophical status than aquosity.
Dr. Stirling233233As Regards Protoplasm in Relation to Professor Huxley’s Essay on the Physical Basis of Life, by James Hutchison Stirling, F.R.C.S., LL. D. Edinburgh, Blackwood & Sons. Republished as one of the Yale University series, p. 39. This is considered to us the best refutation of the theory of the correlation of physical and vital force. states the case thus: “If it is by its mere chemical and physical structure that water exhibits certain properties called aqueous, it is also by its mere chemical and physical structure that protoplasm exhibits certain properties called vital. All that is necessary in either case is, 'under certain conditions,' to bring the chemical constituents together. If water is a molecular complication, protoplasm is equally a molecular complication, and for the description of the one or the other, there is no change of language required. A new substance with new qualities results in precisely the same way here, as a new substance with new qualities there; and the derivative qualities are not more different from the primitive qualities in the one instance, than the derivative qualities are different from the primitive qualities in the other. Lastly, the modus operandi of preëxistent protoplasm is not more unintelligible than that of the electric spark. The conclusion is irresistible, then, that all protoplasm being reciprocally convertible, and consequently identical, the properties it displays, vitality and intellect included, are as much the result of molecular constitution, as those of water itself.” This analogy is two-fold; having reference to chemical composition on the one hand, and to the antecedent stimulus which determines it on the other. “As regards chemical composition, we are asked, by virtue of the analogy obtaining, to identify, as equally simple instances of it, protoplasm here and water there; and, as it regards the stimulus in question, we are asked to admit the action of the electric spark in the one case to be quite analogous to the action of preëxisting protoplasm in the other.”
In answer to this argument Dr. Stirling goes on to show that the analogy holds only as to chemical and physical properties. “One step farther and we see not only that protoplasm has, like water, a chemical and physical structure; but that, unlike water, it has also an organized or organic structure. Now this, on the part of protoplasm, is a possession in excess; and with relation to that excess there can be no grounds for analogy.” “Living protoplasm, 288namely, is identical with dead protoplasm,” says Dr. Stirling, “only so far as its chemistry is concerned (if even so much as that); and it is quite evident, consequently, that difference between the two cannot depend on that in which they are identical — cannot depend on the chemistry. Life, then, is no affair of chemical and physical structure, and must find its explanation in something else. It is thus that, lifted high enough, the light of the analogy between water and protoplasm is seen to go out.”234234As Regards Protoplasm, etc., pp. 41, 42. Water and its elements, hydrogen and oxygen, are as to the kind of power which they exhibit on a level. “But not so protoplasm, where, with preservation of the chemical and physical likeness there is the addition of the unlikeness of life, of organization, and of ideas. But the addition is a new world — a new and higher world, the world of a self-realizing thought, the world of an entelechy.”235235Ibid. p. 42. “There are certainly different states of water, as ice and steam; but the relation of the solid to the liquid, or of either to the vapor, surely offers no analogy to the relation of protoplasm dead to protoplasm alive. That relation is not an analogy but an antithesis, the antithesis of antitheses. In it, in fact, we are in the presence of the one incommunicable gulf — the gulf of all gulfs — that gulf which Mr. Huxley's protoplasm is as powerless to efface as any other material expedient that has ever been suggested since the eyes of men first looked into it — the mighty gulf between death and life.”236236Ibid. p. 42.
“The differences alluded to (they are, in order, organization and life, the objective idea — design, and the subjective idea — thought), it may be remarked, are admitted by those very Germans to whom protoplasm, name and thing, is due. They, the most advanced and innovating of them, directly avow that there is present in the cell 'an architectonic principle that has not yet been detected.' In pronouncing protoplasm capable of active or vital movements, they do by that refer, they admit also, to an immaterial force, and they ascribe the processes exhibited by protoplasm — in so many words — not to the molecules, but to organization and life.”237237Ibid. p. 43.
“Was it molecular powers that invented a respiration — that perforated the posterior ear to give a balance of air; that compensated the fenestra ovalis by a fenestra rotunda; that placed in the auricular sacs those otolithes, those express stones for hearing? Such machinery! The chordæ tendineæ are, to the valves of the heart, exactly adjusted check-strings; and the contractile columnæ 289carneæ are set in, under contraction and expansion, to equalize their length to their office. . . . . Are we to conceive such machinery, such apparatus, such contrivances, merely molecular? Are molecules adequate to such things — molecules in their blind passivity, and dead, dull, insensibility? . . . . Surely in the presence of these manifest ideas, it is impossible to attribute the single peculiar feature of protoplasm — its vitality, namely — to mere molecular chemistry. Protoplasm, it is true, breaks up into carbon, hydrogen, oxygen, and nitrogen, as water does into hydrogen and oxygen; but the watch breaks similarly up into mere brass, and steel, and glass. The loose materials of the watch — even its chemical material if you will — replace its weight, quite as accurately as the constituents, carbon, etc., replace the weight of the protoplasm. But neither these nor those replace the vanished idea, which was alone the important element.”238238As regards Protoplasm, etc., pp. 47, 48. There is, therefore, something in protoplasm which cannot be weighed or otherwise measured, and to which the vital phenomena are to be referred.
If then the argument from analogy fails in its application to vital phenomena, there can be no pretence that it is valid in its application to the phenomena of mind. If we refuse to take the first step, even Professor Huxley cannot require us to take those which follow.
Further Arguments of the Materialists.
Besides the analogical argument, Materialists insist that there is direct evidence of the correlation of physical, with vital, and mental force. Let it be remembered what this means. Correlated forces are such as may be converted, the one into the other, and which are consequently in their nature identical. The thing, therefore, in this case, to be proved is that light, heat, etc., can be changed into life and thought, and that the latter are identical with the former, both classes being resolvable into motion of the molecules of matter.
The proof is substantially this. The animal body generates heat by the combustion of the carbon of the food which it receives, precisely as heat is produced by the combustion of carbon out of the body. And it has been experimentally proved that the quantity of heat produced in the body, is precisely the same due allowances being made, as the same amount of carbon would produce if burnt out of the body. Vital heat, therefore, is identical with physical heat.290
Again, muscular force is produced precisely in the same way as physical force. The potential energy of the fuel moves the steam engine. Its work or power is measured and determined by the amount of power stored in the wood or coal consumed in its production. The source and measure of muscular power, are in like manner to be found in the food we eat. Its potential energy, derived from the sun as is the case with the potential energy of wood and coal, when liberated, produces its due amount, so much and no more, of muscular power. Muscular power, therefore, is as purely physical, produced in the same way, and measured by the same standard, as the power of the steam-engine.
In like manner, “nervous energy, or that form of force, which, on the one hand, stimulates a muscle to contract, and on the other, appears in forms called mental,” is merely physical. It comes from the food we eat. It moves. The rate of its motion is determined to be ninety-seven feet in a second. Its effects are analogous to those of electricity. It is, therefore, for these and similar reasons, inferred that “nerve-force is a transmuted potential energy.” This is no less true of nerve-force when manifested in the form of thought and feeling. Every external manifestation of thought-force, argues Professor Huxley, is a muscular one, and therefore analogous to other forces producing similar effects. Besides, it has been proved that every exercise of thought or feeling is attended by an evolution of heat, which shows that thought is resolved into heat. “Can we longer doubt, then, that the brain, too, is a machine for the conversion of energy? Can we longer refuse to believe that even thought is, in some mysterious way, correlated to the other natural forces? and this, even in face of the fact that it has never yet been measured?”239239See Professor Barker’s Lecture, above referred to, for a summary of these arguments, page 24.
To unscientific men of ordinary intelligence, to men not devoted to the study of the sensuous, it is a matter of astonishment that such arguments should be regarded as valid. Admitting all the above facts, what do they prove? Admitting that animal heat is the same in source and nature with heat outside the body; admitting that muscular power is physical in its nature and mode of production; admitting that nerve-force is also physical; what then? Do these facts give any solution of the mysteries of life, of organization, alimentation, or reproduction? Do they in any measure account for the formation of the eye or ear; for the mutual relations and interdependence of the organs of the body? 291Admitting these forces to be physical; who or what uses them? What guides their operation so as to answer a preconceived design? Admitting muscular power to be physical, what calls it into exercise at one time and not at another; beginning, continuing, or suspending it, at pleasure? It is plain that the facts adduced, are no solution either of vital or of voluntary phenomena. And when we come to thought, admitting that mental action is attended by a development of heat, does that prove that thought and heat are identical? When ashamed we blush, when afraid we become pale; do these facts prove that shame and fear and their bodily effects are one and the same thing? Does concomitancy prove identity? In proving the former, do you establish the latter? Do the facts adduced prove that shame is heat and heat shame, and that the one may be converted into the other? All the world knows that sorrow produces tears; but no one infers from this coincidence that sorrow and salt water are identical. Even Professor Tyndall, one of “the advanced thinkers,” tells the Materialists, that when they have proved everything they claim to prove, they have proved nothing. They leave the connection between mind and body precisely where it was before.240240Athenæum for August 29, 1868, quoted Hulsean Lectures for 1868; Appendix, Note A.
Direct Arguments against the Theory of the Correlation of Physical, and Vital, and Mental Forces
1. They are heterogeneous. All physical forces are alike. They all tend to produce motion. They all tend to equilibrium. They are all measurable, by weight, or velocity, or by their sensible effects. They are all unintelligent. They act by necessity, without choice, without reference to an end. In all these respects mental forces are directly the reverse. They do not produce motion, they only guide and control it. They resist a state of equilibrium. They counteract physical force. As soon as vitality is gone, the chemical forces come into play and the plant or animal decays. They cannot be measured. Forces which do not admit of measurement, do not admit of correlation, for correlation involves sameness in quantity. “Thought,” says President Barnard, “cannot be a physical force, because thought admits of no measure. I think it will be conceded without controversy that there is no form of material substance, and no known force of a physical nature (and there are no other forces), of which we cannot in some form definitely express the quantity, by reference to 292some conventional measuring unit. . . . No such means of measuring mental action has been suggested. No such means can be conceived. . . . . Now, I maintain that a thing which is unsusceptible of measure cannot be a quantity; and that a thing that is not even a quantity, cannot be a force.”241241The Recent Progress of Science, with an Examination of the asserted identity of the Mental Powers with Physical Forces. An Address before the American Association for the Advancement of Science. August, 1868. By Frederick A. P. Barnard, S. T. D., LL. D., pp. 41, 42.
Again, vital and mental force act with intelligence, with forethought, with freedom, and with design. Wherever the intelligence may reside, it is perfectly evident that all vital operations are carried on in execution of a purpose. Heat and electricity can no more fashion an eye than brass and steel can make a watch, or pen and paper write a book. Intelligent force, therefore, differs in kind from unintelligent force. They are not only different, but contradictory; the affirmation of the one is the negation of the other.
Professor Joseph Henry.
Prof. Joseph Henry, of the Smithsonian Institute, is admitted to be one of the most eminent naturalists of the age; distinguished not only for the thoroughness of his researches, but for soundness of judgment, and for the rare gift of being able to appreciate different kinds of evidence. He admits the correlation of physical forces, but protests against the obliteration of the distinction between them and vitality and mind. “The body,” he says, “has been called 'the house we live in,' but it may be more truly denominated the machine we employ, which, furnished with power, and all the appliances for its use, enables us to execute the intentions of our intelligence, to gratify our moral natures, and to commune with our fellow beings. This view of the nature of the body is the furthest removed possible from Materialism; it requires a separate thinking principle. To illustrate this, let us suppose a locomotive engine equipped with steam, water, fuel, — in short, with the potential energy necessary to the exhibition of immense mechanical power; the whole remains in a state of dynamic equilibrium, without motion, or signs of life or intelligence. Let the engineer now open a valve which is so poised as to move with the slightest touch, and almost with a volition to let on the power to the piston; the machine now awakes, as it were, into life. It rushes forward with tremendous power; it stops instantly, it returns again, it may be, at the command of the master of the train; in short, it exhibits signs of life and intelligence. Its power is now 293controlled by mind — it has, as it were, a soul within it.”242242Paper in the Agricultural Report, 1854-1855, p. 448. This illustration holds just so far as it was intended to hold. The intellect which controls the engine is not in it, nor is it affected by its changes. Nevertheless, in the body, as well as in the engine, the controlling intellect is equally distinct from the physical force, which both so wonderfully exhibit.
In more direct reference to vitality, Professor Henry says: “Vitality gives startling evidence of the immediate presence of a direct, divine, and spiritual essence, operating with the ordinary forces of nature, but being in itself entirely distinct from them. This view of the subject is absolutely necessary in carrying out the mechanical theory of the equivalency of heat and the correlation of the ordinary physical forces. Among the latter vitality has no place, and knows no subjection to the laws by which they are governed.”243243Page 441.
Dr. Beale244244Protoplasm; or Life, Matter, and Mind. By Lionel S. Beale, M. B., F. R. S. Second Edition. London, J. Churchill & Sons, 1870. Dr. Beale is an authority in the department of Physiology. His book, How to work with the Microscope, has reached a fourth edition. is equally explicit. He constantly insists that what acts voluntarily, with choice to accomplish an end, cannot be physical; and that in vital and mental operations there is unquestionable evidence of such voluntary action. He says, “I regard 'vitality' as a power of a peculiar kind, exhibiting no analogy whatever to any known forces. It cannot be a property of matter, because it is in all respects essentially different in its actions from all acknowledged properties of matter. The vital property belongs to a different category altogether.”245245Page 103. He argues also to prove that organization cannot be referred to physical force. “It cannot be maintained that the atoms arrange themselves, and devise what positions each is to take up, — and it would be yet more extravagant to attribute to ordinary force or energy, atomic rule and directive agency. We might as well try to make ourselves believe that the laboratory fire made and lighted it self, that the chemical compounds put themselves into the crucible, and the solutions betook themselves to the beakers in the proper order, and in the exact proportions required to form certain definite compounds. But while all will agree that it is absurd to ignore the chemist in the laboratory, many insist upon ignoring the presence of anything representing the chemist in the living matter which they call the 'cell-laboratory.' In the one case the chemist works and guides, but in 294the other, it is maintained, the lifeless molecules of matter are themselves the active agents in developing vital phenomena. . . . No one has proved, and no one can prove, that mind and life are in any way related to chemistry and mechanics. . . . Neither can it be said that life works with physical and chemical forces, for there is no evidence that this is so. On the other hand it is quite certain that life overcomes, in some very remarkable and unknown manner, the influence of physical forces and chemical affinities.”246246Protoplasm, etc., pp. 116, 117. On a former page he had said, “In order to convince people that the actions of living beings are not due to any mysterious vitality or vital force or power, but are in fact physical and chemical in their nature, Professor Huxley gives to matter which is alive, to matter which is dead, and to matter which is completely changed by roasting or boiling, the very same name. The matter of sheep and mutton and man and lobster and egg is the same, and, according to Huxley, one may be transubstantiated into the other. But how? By 'subtle influences,' and 'under sundry circumstances,' answers this authority. And all these things alive, or dead, or roasted, he tells us are made of protoplasm, and this protoplasm is the physical basis of life, or the basis of physical life. But can this discoverer of 'subtle influences' afford to sneer at the fiction of vitality? By calling things which differ from one another in many qualities by the same name, Huxley seems to think he can annihilate distinctions, enforce identity, and sweep away the difficulties which have impeded the progress of previous philosophers in their search after unity. Plants, and worms, and men are all protoplasm, and protoplasm is albuminous matter, and albuminous matter consists of four elements, and these four elements possess certain properties, by which properties all differences between plants, and worms, and men, are to be accounted for. Although Huxley would probably admit that a worm was not a man, he would tell us that by 'subtle influences' the one thing might be easily converted into the other, and not by such nonsensical fictions as 'vitality,' which can neither be weighed, measured, nor conceived.”247247Ibid. p. 16.
In the latter portion of his book Dr. Beale shows that the brain is not a gland to secrete thought as the liver does bile; nor is thought a function of the brain, nor the result of mechanical or chemical action; nor is the brain a voltaic battery giving shocks of thought, as Stuart Mill conjectures; but it is the organ of the mind, not for generating, but for expressing thought.295
To quote only one more authority, we refer to the eminent naturalist Wallace, the friend and associate of Darwin, and the zealous defender of his theory. “If,” says he, “a material element, or a combination of a thousand material elements in a molecule, are alike unconscious, it is impossible for us to believe, that the more addition of one, two, or a thousand other material elements to form a more complex molecule, could in any way tend to produce a self-conscious existence. To say that mind is a product or function of protoplasm, or of its molecular changes, is to use words to which we can attach no clear conception. You cannot have, in the whole, what does not exist in any of the parts; . . . . either all matter is conscious, or consciousness is something distinct from matter; and in the latter case, its presence in material forms is a proof of the existence of conscious beings, outside of, and independent of, what we term matter.”248248Contributions to the Theory of Natural Selection. A series of Essays. By Alfred Russel Wallace, author of The Malay Archipelago, etc., etc. McMillan & Co., London, 1870, p. 365.
Vital and Physical Forces not Convertible.
2. A second argument against the doctrine of the correlation of vital and physical forces is that in fact they are not convertible. Motion and heat are said to be correlated, because one can be changed into the other, measure for measure. But no one has ever changed death into life, dead matter into living matter. This Professor Huxley admits. If the simplest living cell once dies, all the science in the world cannot make it alive. What is dead can be made alive only by being taken up and assimilated by that which is still living. The life, therefore, is not due to the chemical properties of that which is dead. So far as chemistry is concerned, there is no known difference between protoplasm dead and protoplasm alive; and yet there is all the difference between them of life and death. That difference, therefore, is not chemical. Until scientific men can actually change heat and electricity into life, and go about raising the dead, men will be slow to believe that heat and life are identical; and until they can transmute physical force into intelligence and will, they cannot convert “thinkers" into Materialists.
3. Another argument against this theory is the inadequacy of the cause to the assumed effect. The doctrine is that the relation 296between correlated forces is quantitive; so much of the one will produce so much of the other. But we know that great mental agitation may be produced by the mere sight of certain objects, and that these mental states may call into action violent muscular force. According to the hypothesis, the impression on the nerves of sight or hearing is first transformed into mental force, and that again into muscular and molar energy. This, President Barnard, who presents this argument, pronounces to be absurd, “since it makes a small force equivalent to a large one.”249249Barnard’s Address, p. 45.
President Barnard further argues against this theory from the fact that the mental states produced by impressions on the senses are, at least in many cases, obviously due not to the physical impression, but to the idea therewith connected. If you insult a Frenchman in English, it produces no effect; if the insult be expressed in his own language, it rouses him to fury. The meaning of the words is not a physical force, and yet it is to the meaning the effect is due. Dr. Barnard says, “when it is demanded of us to pronounce as physicists that spiritual existence is an absurdity and religion a dream, it seems to me that no choice is left us but to proclaim our dissent, or to be understood by our silence to accept the doctrine as our own. When such is the alternative, for one I feel bound to speak, and to declare my conviction that as physicists we have nothing to do with mental philosophy; and that in endeavouring to reduce the phenomena of mind under the laws of matter, we wander beyond our depth, we establish nothing certain, we bring ridicule upon the name of positive science, and achieve but a single undeniable result, that of unsettling in the minds of multitudes convictions which form the basis of their chief happiness.”250250Ibid. p. 49.
4. Physicists cannot carry out their own theory. Even those least susceptible of the force of the supersensuous, are compelled to admit that there is more in mental and vital action than blind physical force can account for. Dr. Carpenter, as we have seen, assumes the presence of “a directive agency;" the Germans of an “architectonic principle" unknown, and uncorrelated, in living matter, to explain undeniable facts for which physical force furnishes no solution. Others, whose spiritual nature is not so entirely subjected to the sensible, break down entirely. Thus Professor Barker, of Yale College, after devoting his whole lecture to prove that vital force and even thought “are correlated to other natural forces" (i.e., identical with them), comes at the end to 297ask: “Is it only this? Is there not behind this material substance, a higher than molecular power in the thoughts which are immortalized in the poetry of a Milton or a Shakespeare, the art creations of a Michael Angelo or a Titan, the harmonies of a Mozart or a Beethoven? Is there really no immortal portion separable from this brain-tissue, though yet mysteriously united to it? In a word, does this curiously fashioned body inclose a soul, God-given, and to God returning? Here science veils her face, and bows in reverence before the Almighty. We have passed the boundaries by which physical science is inclosed. No crucible, no subtle magnetic needle can answer now our questions. No word but His who formed us can break the awful silence. In the presence of such a revelation science is dumb, and faith comes in joyfully to accept that higher truth which can never be the object of physical demonstration.”251251Barker’s Lecture, pp. 26, 27.
It thus appears, after all, that there is in man a soul; that the soul is not the body, nor a function of it; that it is the subject and agent of our thoughts, feelings, and volitions. But this is precisely the thing which the lecture is devoted to disproving. Thus Professor Barker's science gives up the ghost at the feet of his religion. It quenches its torch in the fountain of an order of truths higher than those which admit of “physical demonstration.” The πρῶτον ψεῦδος of the whole theory is, that nothing is true which cannot be physically demonstrated; that is, which cannot be felt, weighed, or otherwise measured.
Wallace, the Naturalist.
A still more striking illustration of the insufficiency of materialistic principles is furnished by the distinguished naturalist, Alfred Russel Wallace, above quoted. After devoting his whole book to the defence of the doctrine of natural selection, which refers the origin of all species arid genera of plants and animals to the blind operation of physical forces, he comes to the conclusion that there are no such forces; that all is “Mind.” Matter has no existence. Matter is force, and force is mind; so that “the whole universe is not merely dependent on, but actually is the WILL of higher intelligences, or one Supreme Intelligence.”252252Contributions to the Theory of Natural Selection, p. 368. He holds that instead of admitting the existence of an unknown something called matter, and that mind is “another thing, either a product of this matter and its supposed inherent forces, or distinct from, and co-existent 298with it;" . . . it is a “far simpler and more consistent belief, that matter, as an entity distinct from force, does not exist; and that force is a product of Mind. Philosophy,” he adds, “had long demonstrated our incapacity to prove the existence of matter, as usually conceived, while it admitted the demonstration to each of us of our own self-conscious, ideal existence. Science has now worked its way up to the same result, and this agreement between them should give us some confidence in their combined teaching.”253253Contributions to the Theory of Natural Selection, p. 369. Thus, by one step, the gulf between Materialism and idealistic pantheism is passed. This, at least, is a concession that physical forces cannot account for the phenomena of life and mind; and that in conceding that Materialism as a theory is false.
The great mistake of Materialists is that they begin at the wrong end. They begin with blind, lifeless matter; and endeavor to deduce from it and its molecular changes, all the infinite marvels of organization, life, and intelligence which the universe exhibits. This is an attempt to make everything out of nothing. The human mind, in its normal state, always begins with God; who, as the Bible teaches us, is an Infinite Spirit, and therefore self-conscious, intelligent, and voluntary; the creator of all things; of matter with its properties, and of finite minds with their powers; and who controls all things by his ever present wisdom and might; so that all the intelligence indicated in unintelligent forces is only one form of the infinite intelligence of God. This is the solution of the problem of the universe given in the Scriptures; a solution which satisfies our whole nature, rational, moral, and religious.
All works on Psychology, and on the history of Philosophy, contain discussions on the principles of Materialism. Chapter iv. of Dr. Buchanan's able work, “Faith in God and Modern Atheism Compared,” is devoted to the history and examination of that theory. See also chapter ii. of the Introduction to Professor Porter's elaborate work, “The Human Intellect.” Professor Porter gives, on page 40, a copious account of the literature of the subject. In Herzog's “Real-Encyklopädie,” article Materialismus, an account is given of the principal recent German works against the modern form of the doctrine.
Among the most important works on this subject, besides the writings of Comte and his English disciples, J. Stuart Mill, and H. G. Lewes, are Herbert Spencer's “First Principles of a New System of Philosophy,” and his “Biology" in two volumes; Maudsley's “Physiology and Pathology of Mind;" Laycock (Professor 299in the University of Edinburgh), “Mind and Brain;" Huxley's “Discourse on the Physical Basis of Life;" his “Evidence of Man's Place in Nature" and “Introduction to the Classification of Animals:" and his “Lay Sermons and Essays;" Professor Tyndall's “Essay on Heat;" “The Correlation and Conservation of Forces: A Series of Expositions, by Professor Grove, Professor Helmholtz, Dr. Mayer, Dr. Faraday, Professor Liebig, and Dr. Carpenter; with an Introduction by Edward L. Youmans, M. D.; “Alexander Bain (Professor of Logic in the University of Aberdeen), “The Senses and the Intellect;" “The Emotions and the Will;" “Mental and Moral Science;" “Kraft und Stoff, von Ludwig Büchner. Zehnte Auflage. Leipzig, 1869.” By the same author, “Die Stellung des Menschen in der Natur in Vergangenheit, Gegenwart und Zukunft. Oder Woher kommen wir? Wer sind wir? Wohin gehen wir? Leipzig, 1869.” Also, “Sechs Vorlesungen uber die Darwin’sche Theorie von der Verwandlung der Arten und die erste Entstehung der Organismenwelt. Leipzig, 1868.”
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