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§ 6. The first of these questions, concerning the effectuality of values, can be answered only in the light of a Value as Cause clear conception of the nature of causality or or Determina- determination. Is there such a thing as
moral causality? On the face of it, there is. Nothing is more apparent than the fact that, within limits, man does what he wants reaches his ends, executes his designs. But it is customary to suppose that science in this case discredits appearances. It is supposed that the claim for moral causation rests on a confused notion of causation, the only clear and demonstrable causation being exhibited in mechanical laws.
We should, I think, be forced to accept this conclusion if moral causation were necessarily identified with the feeling of activity. Naturalism is quite correct in asserting that the only intelligible and verified cases of causation are cases of determination by law. But what if there be cases of determination by moral as well as by mechanical law?
Physics discovers mechanical laws by looking for the constant features of physical change; especially such as may be expressed as mathematical ratios of space, time, and their complex derivitives. An event is said to be explained by a law, when it can be deduced by assigning particular values to the variables which the law comprises. But when life is observed, it exhibits constancy of another type, a constancy of interest. The complex motions of an organism may be, and are, explained, by regarding them as particular instances of self-preservation. Similarly, the biographer seeks to discover certain general motives, such as ambition, cupidity, or love; and having such motives in mind, he is enabled to show the unity and consistency of a life that would otherwise be a mere aggregate and sequence of actions. Steadiness of purpose is no less, and no more, a matter of fact than conservation of energy. If it be true that the kinetic energy of my actions is quanti1 Cf. above, pp. 99–100.
tatively proportionate to the chemical energy of the nutritive substances which I consume, it is not less true that my actions exhibit a qualitative uniformity which can only be expressed in terms of the interests that govern me. In the one case as in the other, the law is a descriptive summary of change; relating differences to an underlying identity, and novelties to an underlying permanence.
It is customary to suppose that the accepted validity of mechanical laws somehow stands in the way of the operation of interest. But it would be precisely as reasonable to argue that the de facto existence of interests stands in the way of the operation of force and energy. The supposition of an absolute incompatibility between mechanism and interest is, however, contrary both to reason and to fact. There is no reason why an identical process should not obey many laws, and laws of different types; once we are rid of the fallacy of 'exclusive particularity.' It is entirely possible, in other words, that a process should exhibit constancy in several respects. Whether such multiple determination is possible in any given case is a question of fact.
And, turning to the case before us, it is evident that such multiple determination is the fact. I weigh a certain number of pounds in relation to the mass of the earth, and at the same time am actuated by certain political motives. Though my energy be proportionate to my nutrition, it may none the less be expended to good or bad ends. And though the race of mankind crawl upon the surface of a planet from which they have sprung, and though their every action must comply with conditions imposed by a physical environment, it is not less true that these actions exhibit the characters of civilization. They satisfy needs, carry out wishes, and progressively realize certain common and ideal aspirations.
87. There is sufficient ground, then, in reason and in fact, for asserting that interests operate, that things take place because of the good they promote. And this, I think, is
the meaning of freedom, both as an actuality and as a prerogative. I can and do, within limits, act as I will. Action, in other words, is in a measure governed Positive and by desires and intentions. And this measure is capable of being increased, as knowledge, skill, and coöperation develop. There is even a possibility and prospect of its increase to a point at which values shall enter into possession of the world at large, as they have already come to possess it in part.
There is also a negative freedom. There is freedom from the exclusive control of mechanical laws. Indeed, it may be said that, in a certain sense, the control of life by moral laws takes precedence of its control by mechanical laws. For the unit of life, the animal and human individual, is a moral and not a mechanical constant. An individual life is distinguished by what it seeks to preserve and promote. It is disjoined from the spacial and material continuum in which it is immersed, by its partiality, by the specific bias and preference which animate it. It may even be said that in a measure life is independent of mechanism. For if an individual life is defined by its interests, then it will be identified with a physical environment to just the extent, and no more, that its interests are physical. If any life can be said to consist of interests that are independent of the spacial and temporal juxtaposition of things, if its interests can be said to be capable of realization under other circumstances and through other means, then there is ground for saying that such an individual life is non-physical, and not necessarily bound up with the fortunes of the body.
There is also a freedom from the control of social or cosmic moral laws. There is a sense in which every individual is morally a law unto himself. This means only that his action cannot be explained altogether by the larger purposes which embrace him along with others. That there are such larger purposes, and that they are effectual, will not, I think, be disputed by anyone who
admits that purposes are effectual at all. But social purposes grow out of individual purposes, and never wholly assimilate them. It is no more possible to explain a man's action fully in terms of the motives which actuate a social aggregate, than it is possible to explain any physical event wholly in terms of the laws, if there be such, that determine all physical events. The pluralistic character of the universe is reflected in life. Interests, like other things, are more or less bound together. Indeed, in this case, unity is more an advantage to be sought, than a necessity to be deprecated.
§ 8. All religion of the positive and hopeful type is based on the belief that the good will prevail. As James has The Grounds of SO successfully and so eloquently urged, this Religious Belief does not necessarily mean that the very being of things is grounded in their goodness. If such were the case, realism would, of all philosophies, yield least comfort to religion. For realism explicitly repudiates every spiritual or moral ontology. But there is another meaning of religious optimism, that is not less comforting for being less extravagant. According to this second meaning, religious belief is a confidence that what is indifferent will acquire value, and that what is bad will be made good through the operation of moral agents on a preexisting and independent environment.
We have already found support for this belief in the fact that the good is both objectively real and actually operative. There is promise and not discouragement in the fact that nature has yielded life; and in the fact that life, once established, has imposed its interests upon the environment. Were it necessary that the good should triumph only in the breach of mechanical law, then the growth of science would indeed be ominous. But life triumphs in and through mechanical law. The systems of nature enter intact into the systems of life. The temporal antecedence of mechanism is in no way prejudicial to the subsequent ascendency of life. If life can have
established itself at all, it can by the same means enlarge its domain. And if interests can have freed themselves as they have from preoccupation with immediate bodily exigencies, they can by a further and like progression still further reduce the tribute which they pay to the once omnipotent environment.
There is in fact such a forward movement of life. It becomes freer and more powerful with time. The forms of life which are most cherished-intellectual activity, the exercise of the sensibilities, and friendly social intercourse are the very forms of life which are capable of maintaining and promoting themselves. "If," says a living scientist, "we make a curve of the ascent of vertebrates, . . . we find that, as the curve ascends, the ordinates of marital affection, parental care, mutual aid, and gentler emotions generally are, on the whole, heightened step by step. That organisms so endowed should survive, in spite of the admitted egoistic competition that is rife, is nature's sanction. The earth is the abode of the strong, but it is also the home of the loving." And that which is true of the development of animal life at large, is true in greater measure of the development of human life. The liberalization and betterment of life through the agencies of civilization the diversification and refinement of interests, the organization and solidification of society, and above all the growth of reason is at the same time the guarantee of its stability and further expansion.
The Hazard of Faith
§ 9. It is customary to assume that if man cannot be proved to have possessed the world from the beginning, he must renounce hope of possessing it in the end. Thus Mr. Russell apparently infers that if "Man is the product of causes which had no prevision of the end they were achieving," then it must follow that his life is "brief and powerless," that "on him and all his race the slow, sure doom falls pitiless and dark."
1 J. Arthur Thomson and Patrick Geddes: "A Biological Approach," in Ideals of Science and Faith, edited by J. E. Hand, pp. 69–70.