« Prev 3. Hylozoism. Next »

§ 3. Hylozoism.

Hylozoism, from ὕλη, matter, and ζωή, life, is properly the doctrine that matter is endued with life. And this is the form in which the doctrine was held by many of its advocates. All matter, and every particle of matter, besides its physical properties, has a principle of life in itself, which precludes the necessity of assuming any other cause for the phenomena of life exhibited in the world. In this form Hylozoism does not differ from Materialism.

Most commonly, however, the term is used to designate a system which admits a distinction between mind and matter, but considers them as intimately and inseparably united, as the soul and body in man. God, according to this view, is the soul of the world; an intelligent power everywhere present, to which are to be referred all the manifestations of design in the external world, and all the activity of the human soul. The relation, however, of the soul to the body, is a very imperfect illustration of the relation of God to the world according to the hylozoistic system. The soul is really exterior to the body, and independent of it, at least for its existence and activity. It is not the life of the body. It neither fashions nor preserves it. It is not even conscious of the vital activity by which the body is developed and sustained. Whereas according to the hylozoistic theory, the soul of the world is its plastic principle, the inward source of all its organizations and of all its activities.

The leading principles of this theory as developed by the Stoics are, (1.) There are two constituent principles of the universe, one active, the other passive. The passive principle is matter, without form and without properties, i.e., inert. The active principle is mind, dwelling in matter its organizing formative power, i.e., God. (2.) The universe is therefore to be viewed under three aspects: (a.) As the all-forming power; the natura naturans, or, ἡ φύσις τεχνική. (b.) The world as formed by this living, inward principle. The living κόσμος, or natura naturata. (c.) The identity of the two, as they form one whole. It is only by an act of the mind that the one is distinguished from the other. Therefore the world, as including both, or as the identity of both, is formed with the greatest wisdom, and by a necessary process, for the laws of nature are the laws of reason. Cicero,170170De Natura Deorum, ii. 22, p. 1116, edit. Leipzig, 1850. expounding this system, says, “Natura, non artificiosa solum, sed plane artifex ab eodem Zenone dicitur; consultrix, et provida utilitatum opportunitatumque omnium. Censet [Zeno] enim artis maxime proprium est creare et gignere, quodque in operibus nostrarum artium manus officiet id multo artificiosius naturam officere."


(3.) The universe, therefore (The All-one), of which God is the soul and Nature the body, is living, immortal, rational, and perfect (ζῶον ἀθάνατον, λογικὸν, τέλειον). God, as the controlling, operative principle in all things, acts according to necessary although rational laws. (4.) The souls of men are of the same nature with the soul of the world, but as individual existences, passing away when the life of the body ceases. (5.) The highest end of life is virtue; and virtue is living according to reason.171171See Rixner’s Geschichte der Philosophie, vol. i. sect. 120.

This system in one of its forms is nearly identical with Materialism, and in the other with Pantheism. There is no personal God to whom we are responsible, no freedom of the will; therefore, no sin, and no conscious existence after death.

« Prev 3. Hylozoism. Next »
VIEWNAME is workSection