Nature and Mind


Ritchie, D. G. (1900). Nature and Mind: Some Notes on Professor Ward's Gifford Lectures. The Philosophical Review, 9(3), 241. https://doi.org/10.2307/2176383


THE various lecturers who have from time to time been appointed in the four Scottish universities on Lord Gifford’s foundation have interpreted the obligation to treat of " Natural Theology" in very various fashions, and it is in the interests of the scientific and philosophical study of religion that this should be so. Mr. Ward, in the two volumes which contain his lectures, is occupied entirely with the negative task of criticizing those theories of the universe that seem to him inconsistent with any natural theology whatsoever. "I take it for granted," he says in his preface, "that till an idealistic (i. e., spiritualistic) view of the world can be sustained, any exposition of theism is but wasted labor." His work might thus be described as 'Prolegomena to Every Future Gifford Lecture’ Most modern idealists (e. g. Berkeley or T. H. Green) have sought to refute materialism by showing that matter has no meaning except for mind. Mr. Ward gives comparatively but little space to this epistemological method of attack, and the precise relation of his own epistemology to that of the two writers I have named seems to me somewhat obscure. All his first volume, and incidentally many passages of the second, consist of an elaborate discussion of the mechanical theory and the theory of evolution, and half of the second volume is an examination of the theory of psycho-physical parallelism. Thus three-fourths of the treatise are a philosophical criticism of the fundamental concepts of modern physics, and biology, and have a special interest for the philosophical student as the work of a writer evidently at home in mathematical physics, and well known as one of our most original psychologists. Whether these skeptical doubts about the theories of modern science are the best strategical method of attacking materialism and agnosticism, may perhaps be doubted. The physicist and biologist may refuse to yield to an argument that seems to deny the validity of the methods on which they are working. The epistemological idealist, on the other hand, takes them in the rear and surrounds them, and finds the more philosophical students of nature (such as Huxley, for instance, who had studied his Descartes and Berkeley) useful allies instead of out-and-out opponents.

"The- naturalism of to-day," Mr. Ward holds, "is the logical outcome of the natural theology of a century ago" (I, p. 48) the natural theology that viewed nature as a machine set ageing God as its first cause. A Laplace finds he can dispense with the hypothesis of a God thus placed outside the system with which his science is seeking to deal : and there remains, then, only the machine, this monster which the scientific Frankenstein has in reality himself created. (Mr. Ward makes the usual mistake of calling the monster "Frankenstein," II, p. 87.) When welcome to examine the actual theories of modern physicists we find, however, that they have in truth demolished or evaporated the 'matter' of popular belief. They may say we know only phenomena but they are always talking of what are not phenomena, but a noumenal world which they have set up behind the world that appears to the senses, a world of conceptual entities which can never be perceived. The physicist, who hopes to avoid metaphysics, may begin by defining matter as "that which can be perceived by the senses," but he leaves us with atoms, or the vortices of a hypothetical ether, which cannot possibly be perceived by the senses. "Our phenomenal matter," as Mr. Ward puts it (I, p. 88), "is reduced to non-matter in motion" a conception which he very well compares to the Materia prima of Aristotle. Even the ancient atomism of Democritus and Epicurus was of this conceptual character. Mr. Ward is in error in thinking that the Democritean atom "apart from its being absolutely hard, differs from sensible bodies only in respect of size and indivisibility" (I, p. 122). Democritus, as quoted by Sextus Empiricus, said that atoms could neither be seen nor tasted nor touched, and could only be known by "true knowledge" as distinct from the "obscure knowledge" of the senses. Democritus may, like Leibniz, have asserted a continuity between the two kinds of knowledge, but he seems generally to have put his world of realities and his world that appears to the senses, in as sharp an antithesis as can be found in the Platonic or the Kantian doctrine of noumena. His predecessor Leucippus, if Aristotle reports him rightly, seems to have held that the atoms were invisible simply from their smallness, but the more careful theory of Democritus denies to them absolutely any of the "secondary qualities of matter ": how could we conceivably see an atom if it has no color? Thus, the first great system of conscious materialism asserted the absolute reality of nothing except the things that could be known only by reason, thus implicitly refuting its own derivation of thoughtform matter. Mr. Ward does not, however, rely exclusively on this self-refutation of materialism, and attacks directly the fundamental assumptions of modern physics. He thinks it unscientific to apply the principle of conservation of mass to the entire universe: "it involves the further assertion that the universe is a finite system" (I, p. 90). To a criticism of this very sort as intended to throw doubt on the validity of the principle, I have heard a mathematical physicist make a perfectly satisfactory answer: "Take any portion of the universe you like and you will find the conservation of mass and the conservation of energy true of it." It is true for any finite part of the universe; and there is nothing inconsistent between asserting its universal truth and yet holding that a necessity of thought forbids us to conceive the universe as a whole as finite in space or time. Quantitative methods in science are only applicable on the assumption of the conservation of energy. In Kant's sense of the term, it is an a priori proposition, i. e., it is not dependent on experience for its validity, but is presupposed logically in the science of mathematical physics : its proof is not any ' intuitionist 'appeal’ to ‘self-evidence' or immediacy, if these phases imply “got without any trouble" or "accepted by the common sense of mankind," but the 'transcendental' proof, that without it sciences would be impossible, which are possible, because they exist and enable us to predict and to control experience, and to correct alleged experiences to the contrary.


Mr. Ward thinks it absurd of Mr. Herbert Spencer to make the principle of the conservation of energy “deeper than demonstration,” when fifty years ago physicists were unaware of its truth (I, p. 216). Mr. Spencer's own theory of the origin of the apriorism element in knowledge (viz., that what is a priori to the individual was originated in the experience of the race) is indeed put in a difficulty by the fact that very few human beings have ever known of this principle or tested its truth in the laboratory. But the Kantian theory of the a priori, which is 16gical and not psychological, is unaffected by the late date of the recognition and formulation of the principle. Before the science of physics worked with the conception of the conservation of energy, it worked with the conception of the conservation of matter. "Omnia mutator, nil interim" Lutze suggests (in a passage quoted with approval by Mr. Ward, II, pp. 82, 83) that "the universal course of things may at every moment have innumerable beginnings whose origin lies outside of it." It is possible to imagine or picture absolute beginnings, but is it possible to think them and yet believe in the unity of the cosmos, or in any cosmos atoll? In criticizing Mr. Spencer’s “evolutionary epic," as he felicitously terms it, Mr. Ward sees that it is poetical mythology, and not philosophy, to talk of the whole universe as evolved and then dissolved. Is not this passage of Lutze’s equally mythological? And it is self-contradictory as well, to speak of absolute beginnings in the universal course of things, the beginnings of which beginnings are outside the universal course of things. "Those who insist," says Mr. Ward (II, p. 76), ''that the quantity of this energy i.e., the 'phenomenal' energy of the physicist as distinct from Mr. Spencer's unknowable force must constantly seem to me in the same position as one who should maintain that the quantity of water in a vast lake must be customarily because the surface was always level, though he could never reach its shores nor fathom its depth." If the surface was not merely level but always found to be at the same level, the inference would be a better one than the alternative hypothesis that the formation of the ground varied in such a manner as always precisely to balance the varying influx of water and the varying amount of evaporation. Of course, if people like to assume that the physical universe is worked by an ingenious juggler, for the deception of scientific men, they may take that hypothesis, just as it was once suggested that fossil shells had been placed among the mountains by the devil in order to shake the credibility of Scripture. Such hypotheses can neither be proved nor disproved. Of course, also the conservation of energy only implies that the universe is one coherent system: it does not require one to suppose an absolute space or an absolute standard of quantity. Anyone who likes may imagine the sum of energy to be doubled or halved: it does not matter, provided the whole contracts, or expands uniformly. In truth there is no absolute size or quantity. Such phrases are meaningless when we try to think them out. But no quantitative science is possible unless we assume our standard measures to retain the same ratio to the totality of measurable things. We may say that the quart pots of yesterday are the pint pots of to-day: it will not matter, if everything else has changed in the same ratio, so that mathematical principles will still apply. To make the thickest of sciences impossible seems a strange way of making rational theology probable. It is only the irrational theologian that gains by this sort of skepticism. The existence of a pervading intelligence in the universe is rather proved by the exactness of the sciences of quantity than by a doubt as to their truth. There is a saying which, Plutarch tells us, was ascribed to Plato: "God always geometrizes,"


Mr. Ward tells a pretty story of himself (II, p. 77) :"When I was a child my mind was much exercised, because I could never find the beginning of a piece of string ; all the string I could get hold of had had the beginning cut off. I was in a fair way to conclude that string had no beginning, but that every piece was cut off another piece, in turn cut off another, and so on forever. But one day, passing a ropewalk, there to my delight I saw string emerging from a bundle of tow that was not string at all." It was not string, indeed, but it was two. If the child's experience had been the true parent of the man's philosophy he should have found perpetual bits of string emerging from the mouth of a conjurer, as often as the conjurer said: "Sic vole" Then we should have had an illustration of Lotze’s " innumerable beginnings.” In several places Mr. Ward speaks as if he recognized a distinction between epistemology and psychology, but I find it very difficult to understand where he draws the line between them. He quotes with approval Professor Stumpf’s dictum: "That cannot be true in epistemology which is false in psychology" (II, p.133). Suppose we admit this; there need be no contradiction if the points of view are very different. In discussing Kant's theory of space, Mr. Ward speaks as if the Kantian apriorism meant priority in time. Kant's language is, indeed, often careless; he mixes up a great deal of psychology (and much of it very good and important psychology) with Jib's logical analysis of knowledge, but he intends his 'priority' to be logical and not necessarily temporal. Thus, at the beginning of the " Introduction" to the Critique of Pure Reason, he says explicitly that a priori knowledge is not knowledge which is antecedent to experience. Yet Mr. Ward supposes he is correcting Kant, when he writes: "What I wish to challenge is the notion that space is in any sense prior to or independent of the empirical objects that are said to occupy a portion of it and to be all contained in it. It is certain that our first experience [this can only mean temporal priority] is not of 'extension’ which is extension of nothing at all,but of bodies that are extended" (II, p. 144). The second sentence appears to be given as the proof of the first, yet there is nothing in it to which Kant might not have assented consistently with his main doctrine that there is an element in our knowledge not dependent upon experience for its validity, though not antecedent to experience in time. So, again, when Mr. Ward refers to the accepted psychological theory that "one essential of spatial perception is voluntary movement" (II, p. 135), this is an ignoration elenchi as applied to Kant's doctrine of space. The psychological historic our perception of space does not answer the question of theological basis of geometry, whose absolute certainty Kant assumes. All science is certainly, as Mr. Ward rightly insists, conceptual and abstract, and, therefore, we cannot have a science of what is quite concrete, or of individual events or persons. We can have no science of all that is most interesting to us, as beings who feel pleasure and pain. In other words, there is a very large part of our experience in which the categories of quantity are of very little use; but that does not entitle us to question the truth of the sciences where they can be applied.


II

In passing to the biological sciences, we pass to a region in which the quantitative methods of mathematics, and the convenient mechanical images of physics, become inadequate ; but that is no argument against their complete validity throughout the whole universe, regarded simply in its aspect as extended in space and implying motion in space. An animal is much more than a machine, just as it is very much more than a more or less symmetrical solid figure. The categories of quantity and mechanism are not wrongly applied even to animals, unless it be maintained that they are the only categories applicable to animals in all their aspects, spatial and non-spatial. No scientific man as yet has been able to 'explain' the origin of life, i. e., to describe how, as a matter of history, the inorganic becomes organic, in the same sort of way as that in which the chemist shows how what used to be considered elements, water, air, etc., can be resolved into simpler substances and even reconstructed out of them. But must the argument for mind in the universe be rested on the gaps in scientific achievement? It seems a dangerous method of defending the spiritual world. The champions of revealed 'theology’ in the past have in succession thought it necessary to oppose the advance of astronomy, geology, biology, anthropology, scientific history, and the scientific criticism of documents, and have always had to give way in the long run, and have then found out that rational theology at least had suffered no injury. It is very important, indeed, to criticize the unconscious metaphysics of the physicist or biologist, when he trespasses beyond the abstractions of his own special science, and dogmatizes about the universe in all its aspects; but is the criticism of the details of scientific theories necessary part of the defense of idealism? Supposing that some future chemist should discover the missing link between the inorganic and the organic, and give the history of the origin of life in the same sense (and, of course, in the same sense only) as that in which the modern biologist recounts the marvels of embryology, would natural theology suffer any greater injury than those it has already survived? Even dogmatic theology has reconciled itself to the doctrines of Copernicus.


In dealing with biological evolution Mr. Ward ceases to bathe critic of Mr. Herbert Spencer, and sides with him in defending the Lamarckian hypothesis of use-inheritance against the extreme Darwinians, who maintain the sole sufficiency of natural selection ; and, like the late Mr. Romanes, Mr. Ward is anxious to claim the authority of Darwin on his side. Now Darwin’s own position is clear enough. The title page of his great work has on it these words: The Origin of Species by means of Natural Selection, or the Preservation of Favored Races in the Struggle for Life. With characteristic absence of dogmatism Darwin was willing to allow that the older theory of use-inheritance, stripped of Lamarckian fancifulness, might come in as a cooperating factor, and he recognized sexual selection as another evolutionary factor, often interfering with the effects of natural selection. But Russel Wallace is perfectly justified in using the term "Darwinism" to mean specifically the theory announced on Darwin’s title page, not caring, as he might well have done, had he not been as free as Darwin from personal ambition, to call the new theory by his own name. Mr. Ward speaks of the "imposing array of facts" which support the Lamarckian theory (I, p. 279). He does not mention any fact which indisputably proves the theory. So far as I can ascertain, many biologists, who began by holding the Lamarckian and Spencerian theory and instituted careful experiments in the expectation of confirming it, have come round to the conclusion that as yet it is 'not proven.' On the other hand, natural selection has the scientific advantage of being aver causa. Even Mr. Ward seems to admit it as the explanation of leopard's spots, tiger's stripes, etc. The only question in dispute is: How much does it explain and how far does it absolutely require the help of other theories? Mr. Ward quotes Mr. Romanes’s criticism of Professor Weismann's treatment of the question of the inheritance of speech (in Darwin and after Darwin, II, p. 336)."That the young of the only talking animal should be alone in presenting and in unmistakably presenting the instinct of articulation" this Mr. Romanes regards as a clear proof of the transmission of acquired characteristics. And he thinks the manner in which this matter is treated by Professor Weismann an "illustration of the elusiveness of Weismann’s theory." Now I think that Mr. Romanes and Mr. Ward have somewhat misunderstood the position of Professor Weismann on this matter. I remember him, on the one occasion on which I had the pleasure of meeting him, discussing this very question of speech, and what he then said, so far as I can recollect, was that the capability of speech, i.e., of making varied articulate sounds, was undoubtedly inherited (it is inherited by parrots), and natural selection might account for that : it is a capability which has given the human animal a great advantage over other animals. But what is also quite certain is that, however long a child's ancestors have spoken any particular language, the child does not inherit the power of speaking that language, but has to learn by imitation, not only the rational use of words, which of course requires education, but the uttering of sounds peculiar to the language, and has no advantage in learning it over a child of equal general quickness whose ancestors have never spoken that language at all, but who has heard it spoken around him from the time of birth. I have myself noticed a child of entirely Scotch descent, brought up in the EnglishMidlands, unable to articulate the guttural chi, and using the prosthetic exactly like the average Midland or Southern English child (even saying "grapple" instead of "an apple"). Welsh descent will not ensure the capacity of pronouncing the peculiar Welsh; a childhood spent in Wales does ensure it, though there may be no Welsh descent. Further, it may be noticed that a baby's attempts at articulation may include all sorts of quercous that do not exist in the language of the parents at all like the initial mb, which had become extinct in classical Greek. But the whole question of use-inheritance is best examined with reference to the lower animals and plants, where we can more easily exclude the ambiguous indications due to "social inheritance" or "tradition."

The Lamarckian theory attracts Mr. Ward because it is “teleological." By this he means that "it presupposes conscious, or at least sentient activity, directed to the satisfaction of needs, appetites, or desires; psychical activity, in a word, as distinct from physical passivity and inertness. It implies an impulse to self-maintenance and betterment, which so far become ends" (I, p.280). Thus Mr. Ward thinks that psychical activity or Lamarck’s “slow willing of animals" or "subjective selection," as he has himself called it, is a factor alongside of natural selection. The existence of such a factor would certainly prove that there was some element of mind in the universe; but does it necessarily point to spiritual monism? And how much does this psychical activity imply? The Lamarckian theory is applicable to plants as well as to animals. Plants adapt themselves to new environments in the same sort of way that animals do. Mr. Ward, indeed, seems ready to accept Aristotle's consistent recognition of " soul “in plants. But the plant-soul can hardly be called "mind," in the sense of intelligence. Again “self-maintenance" or "self-conservation,” which Mr. Ward puts as a teleological factor alongside of "subjective ‘selection' is just Spinoza's conatus quouna quaeque res in suo esse perseverare conatur, and applies to the inorganic as well as to the organic ; so that this teleological effort after self-maintenance seems linked with the inertia of physical masses, just as natural selection may be linked with the movement of bodies in the line of least resistance. As to an impulse toward "betterment," what is the proof of a voluntary striving for betterment, except the fact that some organisms have progressed? But we must remember that degeneration is a form of adaptation to environment as well as increasing complexity. Mr. Ward’s teleological factors of evolution do not seem clearly to prove" mind " in the individual animal; or else they will prove" soul" in everything, and the distinction between living and dead matter disappears.


In the same lecture from which I have been quoting, Mr. Ward puts forward what seems a better way of treating the whole problem than the attempt to disclose gaps in nature, and to discover a psychical factor alongside of the mechanical and superadded to it. The principle of continuity, "that cardinal principle of all theories of evolution," may be used, as it is by. Spencer, to make lower categories take the place of higher ones. " But it should not be forgotten that on the leveling-up method the principle of continuity is equally available. The scale of life is just as continuous from man to the Protista as it is from the Protista to man" (I, p. 283). On the principle of continuity need we fear, then, to regard, for certain purposes, the organic as a higher form of the mechanical. The idea of potentiality is double-edged. If the lowest form of matter has in it the promise and potency of the spiritual, we are justified in seeing the spiritual in the material. A philosophical and teleological theory of evolution is the counterpart of a scientific, i.e. (in this case) an historical and mechanical theory of it. But Mr. Ward does not himself carry out this suggested application of the principle of continuity and seems generally more ready to discover differences than identities in the scale of things. Near the beginning of his second volume (II, p. 7) Mr. Ward quotes Henry More's fine saying: "Nulls in microcosm spiritus, nulls in macrocosm Deus" No proof is given for the dictum, which Mr. Ward calls "assuredly true," and for which a great deal might be said philosophically, if we were discussing the old problem why God made the world. But it may be noticed that this saying could not have been accepted as strictly true by those theologians who believed that God made the world in time, for then there must have been a time when He was alone in the universe, and a time when He had made the firmament and the sun and the moon and the earth, and had not yet created any living thing ; nor could Locke have accepted it, when he suggested that God might quite well have made matter able to think without interposing a soul between Himself and it. If we admit, however, the truth of the saying, it will still not logically follow from it, that, if there is a spirit in the microcosm, there is therefore a God in the macrocosm. Indeed, Mr. Ward's notion of animals progressing partly by their own voluntary efforts, and partly by the effect of "mechanical" natural selection, seems rather to fit in with a theory of many finite spirits in a world which, because apart from them it is mechanical, is supposed to be unspiritual, and the work of fate or chance. Mr. Ward does, indeed, at the close of his first volume, speak of the orderliness and meaning of the universe as due to "an indwelling, informing Life and Mind." But if the orderliness of the universe is a proof of indwelling mind, why is he so anxious to disparage the mechanical and the mathematically intelligible? Why, he asks (I, p. 108), do we depreciate machine-made articles? As a matter of fact, we do not (if we are wise) depreciate them when we wish exactness and precision, but only when we want the expression of individuality and emotion in what is purely ornamental. The verses of the poet should not be mechanical. True, the sentiment and feeling should be his own; but his meter, i.e., his poetry, as it exists in the physical universe, is none the worse for being accurate. If discords and irregularities are introduced, they must be introduced consciously (for in art "voluntary errors better than involuntary") as part of some wider and more complex harmony.


III

This last illustration suggests the question of psycho-physical parallelism, to which Mr. Ward devotes much discussion. Many philosophical men of science have substituted this conception for that crude materialism which in ancient times resolved the soul into certain very fine atoms, and which in modern times has called thought a secretion of the brain; and many psychologists have looked upon this conception as the most convenient working hypothesis by which to express the relation between psychology and physiology. Mr. Ward rightly regards the conception as the outcome of Cartesian dualism. But the dualism of Descartes was assuredly not the invention of that philosopher, but rather the survival in his system of the popularized Platonic dualism of soul and body, which had become stiffened into an accepted dogma in the Christian consciousness. All our ordinary language now assumes the antithesis between the inner life of the soul and the outer life of the body. The plain man means of course by the external world the world outside his bodily self: and here the distinction of outer and inner is literally correct, the outer skin of each individual dividing all space into two parts. But then the plain man has been further taught to regard the soul as a thing inside his body, and so, when he thinks he is thinking more deeply, he puts his conscious experiences such 'inside' his soul, hardly aware that he is now using a metaphor, and then he opposes to that an external world, which he assumes to be the same for every mind, and from which the mind is supposed passively to receive impressions. It is thus that the dualism of popular philosophy is established; of this common sense 'dualism’ Descartes accepted uncritically the initial antithesis between the mental and the external, giving it, however, a deeper and truer meaning by turning it into the distinction between thought and extension, and becoming aware of the problems to which it leads. The doctrine of psycho-physical parallelism, as formulated by Spinoza, is a serious attempt to solve the problem which popular philosophy conceals under its easy metaphors of images and impressions, but which Descartes had clearly realized. Ordo et connexioidearum idem est ac ordoet connexio rerum. Spinoza, it should be observed, does not use the metaphor of parallelism: he asserts an identity between the physical and the psychical order. And this identity in duality is maintained by the more careful philosophical psychologists (e.g. Hoffding), who have employed Spinoza's conception as at least a working hypothesis. The psychical and the physical are two aspects or manifestations of one substance. Whether that substance is material or mental, or is unknown, is left over as a question for metaphysics. Mr. Ward seems to me hardly quite just to this suggestive idea of Spinoza's. He considers only somewhat crude expressions of it, e. g., Clifford's illustration by reference to the relation between the spoken and the written sentence, or Huxley's comparison of consciousness to the sound of the bell or the shadow of the moving train. These illustrations are defective because both sides are in pari Materia. The sound, as waves in the atmosphere, is a form of energy, and the shadow of the moving train is in the physical world. On the other hand, the sound as heard, the shadow as seen, are in the psychical world; but so, also, are the bell as seen, the train as seen, Theas heard or seen. When consciousness is called an "epiphenomenon," this is really an inaccurate interpretation of metaphors like that of the shadow: it is a way, though a way philosophically indefensible, of escaping the absurdity of calling consciousness a physical product, a secretion or a vibration an idea which would contradict the conservation of energy. The physical counterpart of a state of consciousness must be, on the principle of continuity, some "hypothetical brain mechanics,” “some jolt or jar among vibrating molecules.” G. H. Lewes's adaptation from Aristotle of the illustration of the convex and concave aspects of the circumference of the circle is a better metaphor to express the relation of physical and mental. Weight elaborate such an image a little and say that every one of us sees only the inner surface of a hollow sphere, but that surface we can construe into a moving picture made of spheres whose insides we can never see, but some or possibly all of which we conjecture to have minds inside them perceiving only inner surfaces such as we see; for we can only interpret things on the analogy of our own experience. The 'myth' or picture does not work out very well; it brings us back to the old antithesis of ‘inner' and 'outer,' but in a way that perhaps helps to suggest, instead of to conceal, the difficulties involved in that antithesis. The best illustration of what Spinoza's doctrine, with some modification, may be made to signify is, however, an illustration used several times by Mr. Ward himself, but not in connection with psychophysical parallelism (see, e.g., II, pp. 264, 273). Not the relation between the spoken sentence and the written sentence, but the relation between the sentence spoken or written, on the onside, and the meaning of that sentence, on the other side, may serve as an analogy of the relation between body and soul, or more generally between the material and the spiritual. Aristotle's definitions the realization of the body belongs in the maintop the same mode of thinking, as distinct from the notion of soul and body as separate substances. We might, as a matter of speculation, more on the lines of Leibniz than of Spinoza, apply the conception of psycho-physical parallelism in some such way as this:


Let us for convenience use Roman capitals for the physical series, and the corresponding (i.e. fundamentally identical) Greek cursives for the psychical series. Then A may denote the (as yet almost entirely hypothetical) sphere of psychological physiology so far as it relates to the physical mechanism of the higher mental processes: these processes as known in consciousness will be a. Let B denote living organisms as the subject matter of the biological sciences, and C denote matter and motion (or shall we simply say ‘energy'?) as the subject matter of physics. It will be observed that in descending the scale we come always to what is more abstract; and below C we might place separately, the abstract relations of space and quantity, though C is already so abstract in comparison with B that we may be content with three main divisions of the universe in its physical aspect, spatial extension being the characteristic that belongs to the whole of it. Now, can we give any meaning to any subsequent Greek letters as representing stages in the psychical scale? Applying same principle of continuity which led us to assert the reality (as an object of a conceivable science) of A, but applying this principle in the reverse order, we must recognize ft as the region of ‘obscure perception' and of feelings of attraction and aversion not yet risen into the clear consciousness of a. As the psychical side of C (motion) we find mere psychical activity or blind will. This is really an abstraction so far as our conscious experience goes, because we never experience pure volition without any thought (becoming conscious of it makes it 'thought'),any more than we ever experience pure thought without activity ;but we may follow Schopenhauer and call this mere activity, regarded as psychical, 'will' a potorid, because it is the basis and lowest stage of what we know as conscious volition in a 'Will ‘in such a sense that we could apply it to the self-directed activities of animals and plants, is always found in some combination with feeling, or with what in the case of plants we may call such by courtesy. But this will seem 'only a higher development of what we may think of as the inner or psychical aspect of the inorganic mass or atom which has inertia or the conatus of self maintenance: is the selfhood of mere abstract individuality. In our mental experience we have nothing more abstract than the vague tendency to activity: and so, we cannot find intelligible psychical aspects of anything more abstract than motion. Mere space or extension is mere outwardness, and we can give it no ‘inner' meaning. It is the characteristic of the whole physical universe, but not of the psychical. It is in quasi-Platonic language, the 'other' of thought. But what is most abstract is just for that reason what can be most completely known on the physical side, being least known on the psychical side. We can think the geometrical and the mechanical aspects of things clearly and distinctly. Our science is less able to grapple with the organic, and least with the physiological aspect of the psychical, where, if we are careful, we have to admit the inadequacy of our mechanical conceptions. On the other side, we can have vivid consciousness of our own thoughts and feelings, and of the ends we are striving for, but we can only conjecture the experience of other beings ; and when we attempt to interpret the inner life, the actual 'experience' of plants or of what we call inanimate things, we have to use anthropomorphic expressions which we admit to be inaccurate because too complex.


All this may seem fanciful. It can only be put very briefly and formally here. But it is an attempt to give a possible meaning to the old antithesis of physical and psychical, and to carry out a little further than is usually done the best working hypothesis both for the sciences of nature on the one side, and for psychology on the other. If what proves a good working hypothesis for all the special sciences can be fitted in with a sound epistemological theory, and with a consistent speculative metaphysics, then it has received as much verification as hypotheses on such ultimate matters admit of. The sciences of nature profess to work entirely with what takes place in space and time, to apply mathematical and mechanical conceptions as far as possible, and to allow no 'causal explanation ‘except in terms of what is material, I. e., of the same kind with the spatial phenomena to be explained. To recur to my symbolic letters, A must be expressed in terms of B, B of C, and so on. Just as in ordinary language, in spite of Copernicus, we speak of sunrise and sunset, so we may continue to talk of B causing a and of a causing B (a state of the body causing a modification of consciousness and vice versa)while rejecting the old doctrine of interaction or influxes physics: and such language is specially convenient because of our almost complete ignorance of A and of B, compared with our comparatively full knowledge of a and of B. But the ideal of scientific explanation is a complete description of A, B, C in their simplest and most abstract terms. Mr. Ward objects that 'mechanical ‘explanations are mere hypothetical descriptions; but explanation in a science of nature only aims at such description, and purposely discards all teleology which falls outside the physical series. Teleology in a sense must come in when we are dealing with the organic: structures exist for functions. But this states a problem of natural science and is not itself a solution. To take refuge in phrases like a "tendency to progression, “or a nisus formative, is simply to restate the problem as if it were the solution; ‘occult qualities' are not scientific explanations. The only 'causes' with which the natural sciences can 'explain' are what Aristotle called " material causes," i.e., the sum total of conditions that are equivalent to the phenomenon to be explained on its purely material (i.e. spatial) aspect. It would save much ambiguity, if we could revive the Aristotelian distinction, or introduce some adaptation of his 'four causes.' So far as I can make out, Mr. Ward allows no meaning to the word ‘cause' except that of 'efficient cause.' It is therefore inevitable that he should take all causation to imply activity of the kind that we only know directly in our own conscious striving after ends. This is precisely the view of Berkeley, to whom, curiously enough, Mr. Ward never refers to this connection (the name of Berkeley, though occurring in several places in the book, is not even worth mentioning in the Index). Berkeley, liker. Ward resolves the substantiality of things into causality, and interprets all true causality as will, what are called causes and effects in scientific phrase being merely antecedent and consequent ‘ideas' (i.e., phenomena) which serve as signs of one another. Efficient causation is in place when we are explaining some particular occurrence and wish to discover who or what is responsible for it. Who threw the stone that made the apple fall from the tree? Or was it what lawyers call "an act of God"? But science deals not with particular events (save as experiments or illustrations, or when we cannot get beyond the particular as in the purely ‘historical' parts of geology) and consequently the difference between one antecedent condition and the others is only relative. The biologist as such is not concerned to explain why this flower has an abnormal number of petals, but to discover if possible the conditions of variation in general, and it is all important in judicial investigations, and the material causes are apt to be overlooked. The distinction between the individual and perceptual subject matter of history on the one side and, on the other, the general and conceptual subject-matter of science is admirably put by Mr. Ward at the close of his second volume. But I think he errs in expecting from men of science a type of explanation which they do not (if they are wise) profess to give.


The Aristotelian formal cause is usually supposed, by scientific men who have read Mill's Logic, to be out of date. But the formal cause is exactly what we mean by a 'law of nature.' It is the universal or conceptual formula which is manifested in a number of particulars. And the very common habit of hypostatizing, ‘Energy,' 'Gravitation,' 'Evolution,' etc., is only a recurrence to the mythological interpretation to which the Platonic doctrine of ' ideas ' or universal 'form ' was exposed. The habit, again, of speaking of these abstractions with capital letters as efficient causes is the result of 'animism;’ it is so difficult to eliminate anthropomorphic interpretations even in scientific thinking. Ward argues (II, p. 251) that this conception of 'laws of nature’ is an implicit admission of efficient causes in nature." If man had never made laws, he could never know law, and if he were not a free agent, he could neither make laws nor obey them." Now it may be quite true that the modern phrase ‘law of nature' is a metaphor derived from the laws of the state, e.g. in Cowley's too flattering reference to Bacon:


“Whom a wise king and Nature chose

Lord-Chancellor of both their laws.”


The phrase 'laws of nature’ is apt to carry with it a misleading connotation of command, and obedience, and possible disobedience. But the original conception of civil laws was not that of commands made by man, but of immemorial custom. 'Law' was thought of as the fixed or unchanging, declared, but not made by the sovereign. Doubtless the Stoic conception of the Unsaturable or Lex nature? helped the adaptation of the term 'law' to express the abstract conceptions, or forms (as Bacon calls them), or formula, by means of which the phenomena of nature become intelligible.


If we turn now to the psychical order, we find the proper sphere of final and of efficient causes. In an actual conscious experience, we are aware of ourselves as striving for ends and as initiating events in such a sense that we are held responsible for them. Here we are in the region of what is strictly individual and concrete. If psychology be the science that deals directly with what have called a and hypothetically with ft and 7-, then we may accept. Ward's view that ''psychology never transcends the limits of the individual." I find it, however, rather difficult to understand the account given of the province of psychology inner. Ward's treatise, which has done so much to reform the conceptions of English psychology, but which still remains buried in the inconvenient columns of the Encyclopedia Britannica. Psychology hovers bat-like between the sciences which deal conceptually with some more or less abstract aspect of the universe and some ideal philosophy of mind which should deal with what is perfectly concrete and individual and yet take up into itself all the scattered lights of the various abstract and partial sciences. What I call a, as it really exists, i. e., as the actual conscious experience of some individual ego, contains in it all A, B, C, etc., so far as they are known to that ego; they are abstractions except so far as they exist for some mind, and of course they are also abstractions as apart from the totality or organic unity of A. But a strict account of a so far as possible would be a complete autobiography, not a 'spiritual autobiography' or ' confession 'only (for such accounts of the ' inner life' as a rule imply abstraction from a great part of experience). A science dealing with a must generalize and empty it till it becomes the possible common or average experience of any human ego, and that too only in its aspect as existing for consciousness, or for subconscious feeling (if such an expression may be tolerated), in abstraction from its contents. And as such a science psychology is usually treated. The psychologist, in his endeavor to make his pursuit like the sciences of nature, is obliged, like those occupied with these other sciences, to deal with abstractions : and it seems to me only a matter of degree (though that does not make it unimportant)whether we start with the extreme abstraction of ‘sensations' or 'simple ideas' (in Locke's sense), or with what Kant calls the " manifold of sense “or whether, like Mr. Ward, we start with the "presentation continuum" as it may be supposed to exist in the average normal mind and considered simply in its presentative aspect. In considering the contents of consciousness purely as contents of consciousness we are abstracting from the actual or real experiment of any individual; and in treating of the average or normal individual mind we have abstracted from the real individual.


But if psychology be a science we must, as in the other sciences, look for material and formal causes. Efficient and final causes belong more properly to practical life, and to philosophy. In psychology as a science, even in any psychological dissection of one's self, the self must be treated as an object, a quasi-thing, analyzable into various factors. The modifications of consciousness must be treated as events that happen and have to be explained by reference to antecedent events. We abstract from the individuality of the ego and look for the antecedent conditions of ideas, feelings, and volitions as the 'causes'of them (i.e. material causes) in precisely the same sense in which we find causes in nature: and we seek to formulate psychological ‘laws,' in precisely the same sense as in nature, i.e., they are statements of what under certain conditions must necessarily happen. All laws of nature are true universal propositions, abstract, and best formulated as hypotheticals. From a psychological point of view there is no escape from necessity. In spite of the clear statements of Huxley to which he refers, Mr. Ward appears to confuse necessity in this logical sense (If S, then P) with fate. Fate implies the very opposite of such logical necessity of connection. The oracle utters a strictly categorical proposition, e.g. "whatever Oedipus does, he will murder his father." The scientific psychological necessitarian only says: “If you go on in that way, you will end by murdering your father," and that might prove a very useful warning, if the youth’s character were not too diseased a plant to benefit by healthy air. It is only because of this causal (i. e. t material causal) connection between feelings and volitions that laws with penalties attached to them are of any use they supply motives to those who need them. Mr. Ward seems to regard “unpredictable behavior "as evidence of freedom in the sense of non-conformity to scientific law (II, p. 70).” “Here I pick up a stone and call it dead: I toss it from my hand and can describe the path it will take. There I pick up a bird: I can toss that from my hand too but cannot foretell its course through the air (II, p. 85).” If you are a skillful stone-thrower you may predict the path the stone will take, more or less, because the free air is for the stone a very simple environment, but for the bird, who can see trees and insects and kindred birds and human foes, it is a very complex environment. Throw an irregularly shaped stone down a rocky mountain side, and you may find it more difficult to predict its path than to predict the path of a lark let out of a cage, or of a staunch partisan when a division is taken in Parliament. It is not the difficulty of predicting man's conduct which is the basis of his responsibility, but the fact of consciousness, which is apt to be ignored in the purely materialistic explanations of the sciences of nature, and the possibility of ideas and ideal ends entering among the motives of conduct. As events, ideas have of course their history in time; but as ends they are more than events. The 'unpredictable behavior' of a bird or of a man is a proof of complexity; it is in itself no proof of freedom, in any sense in which that differentiates man from lower beings. It is no necessary counterpart of legal or moral responsibility. As Mr. Bradley has so ingeniously put it, we do not make man " accountable “by making him " unaccountable." The freedom which is the prerequisite of responsibility is, as Aristotle and Thomas Aquinas hold, the absence of external compulsion, the origination of actions in a man's own purposes, i.e., in ideas of ends supplemented by the desire to attain them. For the purposes of historical or biographical explanation we often think and speak of motives as if they were causes external to the person who acts, and much the same for all sorts of persons, and we are apt to forget that they are only real in their inner and strictly individual aspect. We talk, for instance, of a man being 'impelled ‘by ambition; and then it is only too easy to picture the impelling forces if it were something external and separate from the self. The determinism which is inconsistent with moral responsibility is a determinism that has fallen a victim to convenient mechanical imagery. In his article on "Psychology" Mr. Ward says explicitly, that the presumption is against the indeterminist position, and towards the close of the work before us (II, p. 281) he brings in the higher ethical conception of freedom. Real freedom consists in conformity to what ought to be. "For God, whom we conceive as essentially perfect, this conformity is complete; for us it remains an ideal." But just before he has spoken of “contingency “coming in history, "into the very heart of things" (p. 280), though he adds "the contingency is not that of chance, but that of freedom.” This very scholastic distinction between two kinds of contingency is not further explained. The assertion of contingency “in the very heart of things" seems to imply a real absolute contingency, and not merely a name for our ignorance where the causes are very complex: and such an assertion comes strangely on a page which is headed "Spiritualistic Monism." Contingency and freedom of will, in a sense inconsistent with the logical necessity of those laws of nature which are Plato's "ideas” or, as Kepler called them, the "thoughts of God," prepare us to expect system of pluralism, like that which Professor W. James seems to favor. The clever work of Mr. Lupolianski, called Seelenmacht, is a logical working out of the atheistical and anarchical tendencies of the dogmas of absolute individual immortality, and of free will in the sense of 'every man a first ‘cause.' It is an interpretation of the universe in the light of the Polish liberum veto. A God who is only one among other first causes and independent substances is at the most primus inter pares ; and the universe in which these substances exist is either a universe of chance (as in Democritean atomism), or is pervaded by some spiritual principle supreme over this limited Deity. But Mr. Ward does not hint at any such pluralist conclusions. Whereas, under the guidance of Lotze, to whom he refers affectionately as his old teacher, Mr. Ward admitted the possibility of innumerable beginnings in the universe, under the safer guidance of a greater thermolyze, on the last page but one he deprives contingency of its absolute reality. He quotes the passage in which Leibniz says, “Just as surd ratios . . . lead to an interminable series, so contingent truths involve an analysis that is infinite, and possible to God alone." The contingent, after all, then, is but a name for our ignorance and not for an irrational factor in the universe; and so, at the very last we reach monism, but surely at some sacrifice of consistency. " Either the universe says Mr. Ward, "is mechanical or it is teleological; it is not likely to be a mixture of the two" (II, p. 63). May not the universe be both at once, through and through mechanical when regarded in its material or spatial aspect, teleological when regarded in its spiritual aspect, when that aspect is not being treated abstractly for the purposes of a quasi-natural science of psychology, but as the meaning of the whole process, a meaning such as we have in our consciousness of the ends and significance of some part of pure own activities of thought and deed? If epistemology shows us that nothing can ever beta us as having any actual existence save as an object for thought, it then becomes a reasonable philosophical faith, thought goes beyond the limits of possible knowledge, to suppose that the ultimate reality of all things animate and inanimate is their meaning for the one mind which is the universe in its inner aspect. This conclusion, though drawn from some of the premises that Mr. Ward questions, is not, I think, very different from his own: it may be called a spiritualistic monism, but it is not without dualist and not without an agnostic element.


IV.

The fourth part of Mr. Ward's book, entitled "The Refutation of Dualism," is the portion of the work which seems to me most difficult to discuss briefly. I have already made a good many references to it incidentally, but I do not feel at all sure that, after more than one reading, I have understood it correctly. I should describe it roughly as a translation of Kant's theory of knowledge from a logical analysis into an historical account of concrete individual experience and of common or "trans-subjective” experience (i.e. the 'experience' of ordinary language, of common sense, and of the sciences of nature) the dualist tendencies of Kant being corrected by a clearer recognition of the abstractness of either the subjective or the objective elements of experience when taken by themselves. In this last matter Mr. Ward rightly acknowledges the great debt of philosophy to Ferrier. As to what I have ventured to call the 'translation' of Kant, this produces a sounder psychology of cognition than the old empirical psychologists ever attained, but it seems to me (as have already indicated) to leave untouched Kant's main problem about certainty in knowledge; for that problem is logical and not psychological. I do not clearly see how Mr. Ward gets over the new dualism which he substitutes for the old the dualism between (1) "experience, the living experience, of a given individual, filled with concrete events and shaped from first to last by the paramount end of self-conservation and self-realization;" and (2) "Experience with a capital E, the common empirical knowledge of the race, the result entirely of inters objective intercourse, systematized and formulated by means of abstract conceptions'' (II, pp.152, 153). The latter of these he calls an "extension” of the former; but he also speaks of it as conceptual and abstracted from the former, e. g., conceptual space is said to be derived by abstraction from the concrete experience of activity. Now as abstract be regarded as an "extension" of the concrete? And is any experience, such as grown-up human beings, possible at all without a conceptual element in its perceptions, however dimly apprehended as conceptual? The truth is there is no such thing as wholly individual experience, beyond mere uninterpreted feeling and blind willing. It is human society ("trans-subjective intercourse"), with its accumulated stock of concepts, that makes our experience a more or less organic sister. The psychologists with their individualistic standpoint are, I think, responsible for much more confusion than even Mr. Ward admits. It takes more than one man to know anything, Orto have an ideal end for volition.


Mr. Ward, indeed, considers he has refuted dualism; but I fail to see how he has got over the gap he himself has made between “living experience" and conceptual experience. He cites with approval but with an interpolated qualification a passage from. E. Ciardi’s Kant: "To say that we know nothing purely apriorism, but only gradually come to know the world as it reveals itself to us, is another way of describing the same fact, which is expressed when we say that our conscious life is the realization [the gradual, progressive realization I take it] of a perfect intelligence." Mr. Ward continues:" We may conclude then that the subject of universal experience is one and continuous, with the subject of individual experience" (II, p. 196). How much is implied in the words "one and continuous"? And maybe identify Mr. Ward's "subject of universal experience” with a "perfect intelligence," or is the ''subject of universal experience “only Kant's very abstract Burstein bureau? How may it be compared with the intellectual ages of Aristotle and Averroes? How with Green's " Eternal Self-consciousness?” To these questions Mr. Ward has given no easily deciphered answer. He has refuted the ' common sense ' dualism of mind and matter; but I think the pluralist is more likely to accept his arguments than the monist, and pluralism has not (except in one quotation from Leibniz) been excluded. If the objects of scientific thought are merely abstractions derived from individual experience, and liable to all the uncertainty of their source, must not the subject of universal experience be also a mere abstraction from the real concrete individual subjects? "Materialism abandoned and dualism found untenable," Mr. Ward seems too rashly to have assumed that on his premises "a spiritualistic monism remains the one stable position." As in Lutze and in Leibniz, there seems a wavering between monism and pluralism, and pluralism, without being named, seems on the whole the easier conclusion from Mr. Ward's arguments.


"Thought gives us only science not existence." "Reality (in experience) is richer than thought." These are Mr. Ward's recurring protests. But if reality be richer than all thought, how can we escape dualism, and how to reach a spiritualistic monism? In almost the last words of his lectures Mr. Ward seems to me to withdraw his disparagement of thought and of "that necessity which is the boast of science." "These necessary truths," he says, "we have seen are, as Leibniz rightly called them, truths of reason. They originate in the subject of experience, not in the object. If the objects conform to them, then all experience is rational: our reason is confronted and determined by universal reason. Such is the world of spiritualistic monism, and to this world, as I have tried to show, Naturalism and Agnosticism eventually lead us in spite of themselves." The position of idealism could not be put better than in the words I have italicized; but I cannot see how Mr. Ward's arguments lead to this result.


0 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All