Mr and Mrs Anstruther were at breakfast in the parlour of Westfield Hall, in the county of Essex. They were arranging plans for the day. 'George,' said Mrs Anstruther, 'I think you had better take the car to Maldon and see if you can get any ... Read more of The Rose Garden at Scary Stories.caInformational Site Network Informational
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AUTONOMY OF SPIRIT.

Activity Of Consciousness
Aim And Method Of Naturalism
Autonomy Of Spirit
Consciousness Of The Ego
Constructive Criticism
Contrast Between Darwinian And Post-darwinian Views
Creative Power Of Consciousness
Criticisms Of The Mechanistic Theory Of Life
Crities Of Darwinism
Darwinish In General
Darwinism And Teleology
Darwinism In The Strict Sense
De Vries's Mutation-theory
Differences Of Opinion As To The Factors In Evolution
Eimer's Orthogenesis
Evolution And New Beginnings
Feeling
Feeling Individuality Genius And Mysticism
Freedom Of Spirit
Fundamental Principles Of Naturalism
Genius
Goethe's Attitude To Naturalism
Haeckel's Evolutionist Position
Heredity
How All This Affects The Religious Outlook
How The Religious And The Naturalistic Outlooks Conflict
Immortality
Individual Development
Individuality
Intuitions Of Reality
Irritability
Is There Ageing Of The Mind?
Lamarckism And Neo-lamarckism
Machnical Theories Criticism
Mind And Spirit The Human And The Animal Soul
Mystery : Dependence : Purpose
Mysticism
Natural Selection
Naturalism
Naturalistic Attacks On The Autonomy Of The Spiritual
No Parallelism
Other Instances Of Dissatisfaction With The Theory Of Descent
Parallelism
Personality
Pre-eminence Of Consciousness
Preyer's Position
Religion And The Theory Of Descent
Self-consciousness
Spontaneous Generation
Teleological And Scientific Interpretations Are Alike Necessary
The Antimony Of Our Conception Of Space
The Antimony Of Our Conception Of Time
The Antimony Of The Conditioned And The Unconditioned
The Characteristic Features Of Darwinism
The Conservation Of Matter And Energy
The Constructive Work Of Driesch
The Contingency Of The World
The Dependence Of The Order Of Nature
The Development Of Darwinism
The Ego
The Fundamental Answer
The Law Of The Conservation Of Energy
The Mechanics Of Development
The Mystery Of Existence Remains Unexplained
The Organic And The Inorganic
The Position Of Bunge And Other Physiologists
The Problema Continui
The Real World
The Recognition Of Purpose
The Religious Interpretation Of The World
The Spontaneous Activity Of The Organism
The Supremacy Of Mind
The Theory Of Descent
The True Naturalism
The Two Kinds Of Naturalism
The Unconscious
The Unity Of Consciousness
The Views Of Albrecht And Schneider
The Views Of Botanists Illustrated
The World And God
Theory Of Definite Variation
Theory Of Life
Underivability
Various Forms Of Darwinism
Virchow's Caution
Virchow's Position
Weismann's Evolutionist Position
Weismannism
What Is Distinctive In The Naturalistic Outlook
What Is Distinctive In The Religious Outlook



Naturalistic Attacks On The Autonomy Of The Spiritual








The attacks that have been made by naturalism upon the independence and
freedom of the spiritual are so familiar to every one--even from school
days--through books of the type of Buechner's "Kraft und Stoff," and
Haeckel's "The Riddle of the Universe," and other half or wholly
materialistic popular dogmatics, that it is unnecessary to enter into any
detail. Very little that is new has been added in this connection to the
attack made by Plato on himself in the "Phaedo" through Simmias and Kebes.
It is only apparently that the modern attacks have become more serious
through the deepened knowledge of natural science. At all times they have
been as serious and as significant as possible, and the religious and
every other idealistic conception of the universe has always suffered from
them. It is plain that here, if anywhere, "faith goes against
appearances," and that in the last resource we have to postulate free
moral resolution, the will to believe, the desire for the ideal, for
freedom, and for the eternity of the spirit, and the confidence of the
spirit in itself. All this is, or at least ought to be, self-evident and
generally admitted.

Let us once more take a brief survey of the reasons on the other side and
arrange them in order.

That nature is everything and spirit very little seems to follow from a
very simple circumstance. There are whole worlds of purely natural and
corporeal existence without mind, sensation, or consciousness, which,
quite untroubled by their absence, simply exist according to the
everlasting laws of matter and energy. But nowhere do we find spirit or
mind without a material basis. All that is psychical occurs in connection
with a physical being, and with relatively few physical beings. Spirit
seems wholly bound up with and dependent upon the states, development, and
conditions of material being. With the body of living beings there arises
what we call "soul"; with the body it grows, gains content, changes,
matures, ages, and disappears. According as the body is constituted and
composed, as it is influenced by heredity, race, and selection, by
nutrition, mode of life, climate, and other circumstances, there are
developed in a hundred different ways what we call the natural disposition
or character, inclinations, virtues or vices, passions or temperaments.
Even the names given to the different temperaments emphasise this
dependence of what is innermost in us, the deepest tendencies of our
being, on the bodily organisation and the nature of its physiological
constitution. The man whose blood flows easily and freely is called
sanguine, and the melancholic is the victim of his liver. According as our
organs are good or bad, function freely or sluggishly, our mood rises or
sinks, we are bold or cowardly, languid or impetuous, and enthusiasm is
often enough only a peculiar name for a state which, physiologically
expressed, might be called alcoholic poisoning. There is one soul in the
sound body, another in the sickly. Fever, and the impotence of the soul
against it, made Holbach a materialist. If the brain be diseased, that
marvellous order of psychical processes which we call reasoning is broken;
the "soul" is wholly or partly eliminated; it fades away, or becomes
nothing more than a confused disconnected medley of images and desires.
Even artificial interference with, and changes in the bodily organisation
react upon the mind. The removal of the thyroid gland may result in
idiocy. Castration not only prevents the "breaking" of the voice in the
Sistine choristers, it damps the fires of life to dulness, and makes of
the impetuous Abelard a comfortable discursive father-confessor. The mind
is bound up almost piece by piece with its material basis. Through the
"localisation" of psychic processes in the particular parts of the brain,
naturalism has enormously strengthened the impression that existed even
among the ancients, that sensation and imagination are nothing more than,
let us say, what the note is to a tightly stretched string. Cerebrum and
cerebellum are regarded as the seats of different psychic processes. The
secret of the higher processes is believed to be hidden in the grey matter
of the cortex of the cerebrum. We seek and find in the various lobes and
convolutions of the brain the "centres" for the different capacities, the
power of sight, of smell, of moving the arms, of moving the legs, of
associating ideas, of co-ordinated speech, and so on. When brain and
spinal cord are injured or removed piece by piece from a pigeon or a frog,
it seems as if the "soul" were eliminated piece by piece,--the capacity for
spontaneous free co-ordination, for voluntary action, for the various
sense-impressions, and so on from the higher to the lower. It has even
been maintained that the different feelings and perceptions which are
gradually acquired can be apportioned among the individual cells of the
brain in which they are localised, and the thought-processes, the
associations of percepts, the origin of consecutive ideas, the rapid and
easy recalling of memory-images, and the process of voluntary control, of
instincts, can be explained as due to the "gradual laying down of
nerve-paths" between the different centres and areas of localisation in
the brain. All this seems to refute utterly the old belief in the unity
and personality of the soul. It is different in youth and in age, and
indeed varies continually. It is the ever-varied harmony of the notes of
all the strings which are represented by the fibres and ganglion-cells of
the nerve-substance. It apparently can not only be completely confused and
brought to disharmony, but it may be halved and divided. An almost
terrifying impression was produced when Trembley in 1740 made the
experiment of cutting a "hydra" in two, and showed that each of the halves
became a complete animal, so that obviously each of the two halves of the
soul grew into a new hydra-soul. And Trembley's hydra was only the
precursor of all the cut-up worms, of the frogs, birds, and guinea-pigs
that have been beheaded, or have had their brain removed, or their nerves
cut, and have furnished further examples of this divisibility of "souls."

If the independence of the spiritual is thus shown to be a vain
assumption, the alleged difference between the animal and the human Psyche
is much more so. Not from the days of Darwinism alone, but from the very
beginning, naturalism has opposed this claim to distinctiveness. But it is
due to Darwinism that the fundamental similarity of the psychical in man
and animals has come to be regarded as almost self-evident. The mental
organisation of man, as well as his corporeal organisation, is traced back
through gradual stages to animal antecedents, and in thus tracing it there
are two favourite methods of procedure, which are, however, apt to be
mutually destructive.

On the one hand, some naturalists regard the animal anthropomorphically,
insist on its likeness to man, discovering and extolling, not without
emotion, all the higher and nobler possessions of the human mind,
intellectual capacities, reason, reflection, synthesis, fancy, the power
of forming ideas and judgments, of drawing conclusions and learning from
experience, besides will in the true sense, ethical, social and political
capacities, aesthetic perceptions, and even fits of religion in elephants,
apes, dogs, down even to ants and bees, and these naturalists reject
old-fashioned explanations in terms of instinct, and find the highest
already contained in the lowest. Those of another school are inclined to
regard man theriomorphically, to insist on his likeness to animals,
explaining reason in terms of perception and sensation, deriving will from
impulse and desire, and ethical and aesthetic valuations from physiological
antecedents and purely animal psychological processes, thus, in short,
seeking to find the lowest in the highest. (We have already met with an
analogous instance of a similarly fallacious double-play on parallel
lines.) So it comes about that both the origin and the development of the
psychical and spiritual seem to be satisfactorily cleared up and
explained, and at the same time a new proof is adduced for its dependence
upon the physical. For what is true of all other parts of the
organisation, of the building up and perfecting of every member and every
system of organs, the bony skeleton, the circulatory system, the
alimentary canal, that they can be referred back to very simple

beginnings, and that their evolution may be traced through all its
stages--is equally true of the nervous system in general and of the brain
in particular. It increases more and more in volume and in intricacy of
structure, it expands the cranial cavity and diversifies its convolutions.
And the more it grows, and the more complex it becomes, the more do the
mental capacities increase in perfection, so that here again it seems once
more apparent that the psychical is an accompaniment and result of the
physical.

Popular naturalism usually stops short here, and contents itself with
half-truths and inconsequences, for it naively admits that psychical
processes, sensation, perception, will, have a real influence upon the
physical, and, not perceiving how much the admission involves, it does not
trouble itself over the fact that, for instance in the so-called voluntary
movements of the body, in ordinary behaviour, the psychical, and the will,
in particular, is capable of real effect, and can move hand and foot and
the whole body, and thus has a real reciprocal relation with the physical.
This form of popular naturalism sometimes amuses itself with assuming a
psychical inwardness even in non-living matter, and admitting the
co-operation of psychical motives even in regard to it.

But it is far otherwise with naturalism in the strict sense, which takes
its fundamental principles and its method of investigation seriously. It
is aware that such half-and-half measures interrupt the continuity of the
system at the most decisive point. And therefore with the greatest
determination it repeats along psychological lines the same kind of
treatment that it has previously sought to apply to biological phenomena:
the corporeal must form a sequence of phenomena complete in itself and not
broken into from without. All processes of movement, all that looks as if
it happened "through our will," through a resolve due to the intervention
of a psychical motive, every flush of shame that reddens the cheek, every
stroke executed by the hand, every sound-wave caused by tongue and lips,
must be the result of conditions of stimulation and tension in the energy
of the body itself.

This is the meaning of all those psycho-physical experiments that have
been carried on with so much ingenuity and persistence (usually associated
with attempts to explain vital phenomena in terms of mechanism). First,
they attempt to interpret the expressions of will, feeling and need, the
spontaneous activities and movements of the lowest forms of
life--protists--as "pure reflexes," as processes which take place in
obedience to stimuli, and thus are ultimately due to chemical and physical
influences and causes without the intervention of a psychical motive; and,
secondly, when this has been apparently or really achieved, the theory of
irritability and reflex mechanism is pushed from below upwards, until even
the most intricate and complex movements and operations of our own body,
which we have wrongly distinguished as acts or behaviour from mere
processes of stimulation, are finally recognised as reflexes and
liberations due to stimuli. Some stimulus or other, from light or sound or
something else, is, according to this theory, conducted to the nervous
centre, the ganglion, the spinal cord, the cerebellum or the cerebrum.
Here it produces an effect, not of a psychical nature, but some minute
chemical, or physical,--or purely mechanical change, which goes through
many permutations within the nervous centre itself, unites there with the
stored energies, and then, thus altered, returns by the efferent nerve
paths to effect a muscle-contraction in some organ, a stretching of the
hand, or a movement of the whole body. The physical process is accompanied
by a peculiar inward mirroring, which is the psychical penumbra or shadow
of the whole business. Thus what is in reality a purely mechanical and
reflex sequence appears like a psychical experience, like choice and will
and psychical causality. We may be compared to Spinoza's stone; it was
thrown, and it thought it was flying.

The reasons for interpreting things in this way lie in the principles of
investigation. It is only in this way, we are told, that nature can be
reduced to natural terms, that is, to chemistry, physics, and mechanics.
Only in this way is it possible to gain a true insight into and
understanding of things, and to bring them under mathematical formulae.
Thus only, too, can "the miraculous" be eliminated. For if we are obliged
to admit that the will has a real influence on the corporeal, for instance
upon our brain, and nerves, and arm-muscles, this would be a violation of
the law of the constancy of the sum of energy. For in this case there
would occur, at a certain point in the nexus of phenomena, a piece of work
done, however small it might be, for which there was no equivalent of
energy in the previous constitution. But this is, since the days of
Helmholtz, an impossible assumption. And thus all those experiments and
theories on what we have called the "second line" of mechanistic
interpretation of the universe show themselves to be relevant to our
present subject.

Interpretations of the psychical such as these have given rise to four
peculiar "isms" of an epistemological nature, i.e., related to a theory
of knowledge. Not infrequently they are the historical antecedents which
result in the naturalistic theory of the psychical. These are nominalism
and sensualism, empiricism and a-posteriorism, which, setting themselves
against epistemological rationalism, assail the dignity, the independence,
and the autonomy of the thinking mind. They are so necessarily and closely
associated with naturalism that their fate is intimately bound up with its
fate, and they are corroborated or refuted with it. And it would be
possible to conduct the whole discussion with which we are concerned
purely with reference to these four "isms." The strife really begins in
their camp.

The soul is a tabula rasa, all four maintain, a white paper on which, to
begin with, nothing is inscribed. It brings with it neither innate
knowledge nor commands. What it possesses in the way of percepts,
concepts, opinions, convictions, principles of action, rules of conduct,
are inscribed upon it through experience (empiricism). That is, not
antecedent to, but subsequent to experience (a posteriori). But experience
can only be gained through the senses. Only thus does reality penetrate
into and stamp itself upon us. "What was not first in the senses (sensus)
cannot be in the intelligence." What the senses convey to us alone builds
up our mental content, from mere sensory perceptions upwards to the most
abstract ideas from the simplest psychical elements up to the most complex
ideas, concepts, and conclusions, to the most varied imaginative
constructions. And in the development of the mental content the "soul"
itself is merely the stage upon which all that is acquired through the
senses crowds, and jostles, and unites to form images, perceptions, and
precepts. But it is itself purely passive, and it becomes what happens to
it. Therefore it is not really spirit at all, for spirit implies
spontaneity, activity, and autonomy.

Philosophy and the mental sciences have always had to carry on the strife
with these four opponents. And it is in the teacup of logic and
epistemology that the storm in regard to theories of the universe has
arisen. It is there, and not in the domain of neurology, or zoology, that
the real battlefield lies, upon which the controversy must be fought out
to the end. What follows is only a sort of skirmish about the outposts.

What naturalism holds in regard to the psychical and spiritual may be,
perhaps, most simply expressed by means of an illustration. Over a wide
field there glide mighty shadows in constant interplay. They expand and
contract, become denser or lighter, disappear for a little, and then
reveal themselves again. While they are thus forming and changing, one
state follows quite connectedly on another. At first one is tempted to
believe that they are self-acting and self-regulating, that they move
freely and pass from one state to another according to causes within
themselves. But then one sees that they are thrown upon the earth from the
clouds above, now in this way and now in that, that all their states and
forms and changes are nothing in themselves, and neither effect anything
in themselves nor react upon the occurrences and realities up above, which
they only accompany, and by which they are determined without any
co-operation on their own part, even in determining their own form. So it
is with nature and spirit. Nature is the true effective reality; spirit is
its shadow, which effects nothing either within or outside of itself, but
simply happens.





Next: The Fundamental Answer

Previous: Autonomy Of Spirit



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