LECTURE IV NOTE G.—P. 148.
MIND AND MECHANICAL CAUSATION.
It is well to see clearly what this “gradual
banishment from all regions of human thought of what we call spirit and spontaneity,”
which Professor Huxley speaks of (“On the Physical Basis of Life”), involves; and
the matter could not he much better put than it is by Mr. Kennedy in his Donnellan
Lectures on Natural Theology and Modern Thought. He calls attention to the
way in which this theory must, if true, affect our belief about the agency of God
and the agency of the mind of man. “For the latter, the agency of the human mind,”
he says, “it leaves no room whatever. It tells us that, in attributing the railways
and steamships and cotton-mills of the present day to the fertile mind of man, we
have been making a mistake as great as that of the insane astronomer in Swift’s
satire, who had persuaded himself that it was his watchful care which guided the
movement of the planets. The railways, steamships,
430and cotton-mills would have been constructed all the same,
though we had no minds at all; just as the stars would have remained in their proper
places, though the attention of the astronomer had been withdrawn from them. It
was the boast of Comte that, to minds famliarised with the true astronomical philosophy,
the heavens now declare no other glory than that of Hipparchus, Kepler, Newton,
and all those who have contributed to the ascertainment of their laws; but if the
doctrine of Automatism be true, it is the direct contrary of this which results;
it is the glory of Hipparchus, Newton, and Kepler which is irretrievably destroyed.
For the mind of Hipparchus was not the agent which made known to man the Precession
of the Equinoxes; nor were the thoughts of Newton the cause of the writing of the
Principia; nor did those of Kepler cause the enunciation, either by pen or
voice, of the laws which bear his name. These philosophers were merely conscious
automata; and had they been unconscious automata, the result would still have been
the very same” (pp. 75, 76). This is no travesty of the doctrine, but a serious presentation
of the results of the views advocated by Professor Huxley in his paper,” The Hypothesis
that Animals are Automata” (Fortnightly Review, November 1874, pp. 575, 576).
“It seems to me,” says this distinguished scientific teacher, “that in men, as in
brutes, there is no proof that any state of consciousness is the cause of change
in the motion of the matter of the organism. If these positions are well based,
it follows that our mental conditions are simply the symbols in consciousness of
the changes which take place automatically in the organism; and that, to take an
extreme illustration, the feeling we call volition is not the cause of a voluntary
act, but the symbol of that state of the brain which is the immediate cause of that
act. We are conscious automata,” etc. It is difficult to see what place is left
for virtue or responsibility in such a theory of man as this!