Page images


plicity of the thing, but of the knowledge. It is, in short, a case of 'pseudo-simplicity.' In the second case, that is, when analyzed, it turns out to be a composite experience, containing specific elements in a specific configuration. Now activity in the latter sense is far too peculiar and rare to be construed as an all-general and all-sufficient principle. But activity in the former sense is indeterminate; and since the experience is familiar, it gives currency to a similarly indeterminate conception of force, which is amorphous and plastic enough to suit the speculative purpose. It is readily accepted as the principle which underlies and unites both the analyzed and determinate ‘force' of physics, and the analyzed and determinate ‘activity' of a strictly descriptive psychology.

$ 6. The monisms of matter and force are restated, brought up to date, and subsumed under a higher

“monism of substance," by Ernst Haeckel. Haeckel's Monism of This author's Riddle of the Universe is at

present both the most widely read and influential defence of materialism, and also the most perfect illustration of that doctrine's characteristic motive and besetting sins.

“Under the name of 'the law of substance,'” Haeckel embraces “two supreme laws of different origin and age the older is the chemical law of the conservation of matter,' and the younger is the physical law of the conservation of energy "The sum of matter which fills infinite space,' and “the sum of force, which is at work in infinite space and produces all phenomena,” are alike unchangeable. And just as all energies — heat, sound, light, electricity, and the rest, are only particular varieties of one universal energy, “dynamodes of a single primitive force," so the different forms of matter-chemically diverse, ponderable and imponderable, are only particular "condensations” of a “simple primitive substance, which fills the infinity of space in an unbroken continuity.” But monism is not yet complete. “Matter (space-filling substance) and energy (moving force) are but two inseparable attributes" of a still more fundamental substance. And in this substance the dualism of body and mind is resolved as well. For energy and spirit are one. Spirit is at once the essence and the activity of substance; physical affinity and resistance are but rudimentary forms of inclination and aversion. “The irresistible passion that draws Edward to the sympathetic Ottilia, or Paris to Helen, and leaps over all bounds of reason and morality, is the same powerful 'unconscious' attractive force which impels the living spermatozoon to force an entrance into the ovum in the fertilization of the egg of the animal or plant the same impetuous movement which unites two atoms of hydrogen to one atom of oxygen for the formation of a molecule of water." Thus Haeckel arrives at the animism and hylozoism with which human thought had set out some 2500 years before, the notion of an indeterminate matter, informed and animated by an indeterminate force - a cosmic generalization, in other words, of the immediate feeling of desire and self-motion. And even this is not the last substance; for it is but “the knowable aspect of things,” and is relative to our senses. “We are incompetent ... to penetrate into the innermost nature of this real world — 'the thing in itself.' ” 1

Thus the principle of substance in the end conducts Haeckel, as it conducted Büchner and Spencer, to agnosticism. And his procedure is in all essential respects the same as theirs. He consistently assumes that a simple unity corresponding to the name or initial aspect, must underlie every analyzed and relational unity. For every correlation of elements, there must be a 'that which' possesses them. And this assumption is applied to the central concepts of physics. Weight, mass, force, and energy,

1 Haeckel: The Riddle of the Universe, trans. by J. McCabe, pp. 211213, 216, 218, 224, 292. The best reply to Haeckel is to be found in Sir Oliver Lodge, Life and Matter. Cf. also Fr. Paulsen: Philosophia Militons, p. 121, “Ernst Haeckel als Philosoph.”



are properly, as we have seen, constant ratios of variables: mathematical proportions of the spacial, temporal, and qualitative properties of things, as these are directly observed. But with Haeckel, every such relational complex is regarded as expressing some simple essence or unique quality. Thus the Newtonian mechanics, he says, gives us only the “dead mathematical formula the “quantitative demonstration" of the theory of force; "it gives us no insight whatever into the qualitative nature of the phenom

2."1 In other words, Haeckel is not satisfied with the qualitative diversity represented by the several terms into which a Newtonian formula may be analyzed. There must be a deeper and more essential quality corresponding to the formula itself. But such a quality is neither to be observed nor discovered by analysis. It is assumed; and once assumed, it is given a vague meaning either by reference to the subjective experience of effort, or by the lingering and confused reminiscence of its exact mechanical meaning

And it is the latter of these means on which this doctrine depends for its materialistic or anti-spiritualistic conclusions. If the qualitative essence of force and energy were interpreted in terms of psychical activity or appetency, the outcome would be a 'panpsychism,'' in which it would be as reasonable to reduce mechanism to freedom as freedom to mechanism, or as reasonable to reduce matter to God as God to matter. Precisely this conclusion is reached by those who, like Bergson, approach the primeval activitysubstance from the philosophical and psychological side. But Haeckel's monism “definitely rules out the three central dogmas of metaphysics — God, freedom, and immortality.” And that such appears to be the outcome

4 is due entirely to the remnant of definite physical meaning that still attaches to 'force' and 'energy' in Haeckel's use of them. The underlying substance, or primitive 1 op. cit., p. 217.

: Cf. below, p. 315. • See below, pp. 261–262.

Op. cit., p. 232.

force, cannot be identified with any of its observed and described manifestations; and yet it is reached by passing through and beyond these. It is these manifestations so qualified as to annul their specific characters, but without destroying the suggestive power of their names. Precisely as, in the mystical theology, God's attributes transcend wisdom and goodness in their human significance, and yet retain the specific associations of these terms, and so endow God with a vague meaning; so here the primitive force, the fundamental substance, is endowed with the narrower physical meaning of terms despite the fact that that meaning strictly construed forbids the assertion of their universality. The errors of pseudo-simplicity and indefinite potentiality are meretriciously relieved of their real barrenness by the further error of 'verbal suggestion.' 1

$ 7. Critical naturalism differs from naïve naturalism or materialism by its acceptance of what we have called 'the Critical Nat- analytical version' of scientific concepts. This

involves the rejection, on empirical grounds, of the traditional notion of substance. The term 'sub

. stance' may be retained; but if so, it is employed in a new sense, to mean a quantitative and not a qualitative constant. Thus, according to Ostwald, for example, the law of the conservation of energy expresses “the quantitative conservation of a thing, which may nevertheless undergo the most varied qualitative changes.” “With the knowledge of this fact,” he continues, "we involuntarily combine the notion that it is the 'same' thing that passes through all these transformations, and that it only changes its outward form without being changed in its essence." But such ideas “have a very doubtful side to them, since they correspond to no distinct concept." Experience affords no idea of such a qualitative essence, but only of a complex

a ratio that remains unchanged while its factors vary.?

In other words, a strictly empirical version of science 1 Cf. below, pp. 180-183. ; W. Ostwald: Natural Philosophy, trans. by T. Seltzer, pp. 130-132.


reduces nature to a qualitative variety and change, exhibiting quantitative constancy. In order that such a version of science shall yield a naturalistic philosophy, it is necessary to show that nature so construed coincides with knowable reality. This conclusion may be arrived at in one or both of two ways. It may be argued that the ultimate qualitative terms of experience are somehow physical, or at any rate such as to permit of being explained only in terms of physical theories; or it may be argued that physical theories are the only verifiable, and so the only valid, theories. In other words, the priority of physical science may be argued from the nature of fact or from the nature of method. The former of these motives is represented by sensationalism,'and the latter by "experimentalism.” Sensationalism and experimentalism are ordinarily united; but owing to a characteristic difference of emphasis, Karl Pearson serves to illustrate the former, and Henri Poincaré the latter.

88. It is Pearson's central contention that the truths of science are conceptions and inferences formed from senseThe Sensation impressions. The external object, which "at alism of Karl first sight appears a very simple object," Pearson turns out to be a "construct" of sensible

'” properties, "a combination of immediate with past or stored sense-impressions.” So that the field of science is “the contents of the mind." The sense-impressions constitute the only subject-matter of thought, the only reality that is directly given. The mind is shut up to senseimpressions, as a hypothetical operator who has never been outside a central telephone exchange, is shut up to the messages received at the inner end of the wire. “Turn the problem round and ponder over it as we may, beyond the sense-impression, beyond the brain terminals of the sensory nerves, we cannot get.” “The 'reality,' as the metaphysicians wish to call it, at the other end of the nerve, remains unknown, and is unknowable.” 1

1 Karl Pearson: Grommor of Science, second edition, pp. 39, 41, 75, 61, 63, 67,

« PreviousContinue »