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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 Individuality Genius And Mysticism
Freedom Of Spirit
Fundamental Principles Of Naturalism
Goethe's Attitude To Naturalism
Haeckel's Evolutionist Position
How All This Affects The Religious Outlook
How The Religious And The Naturalistic Outlooks Conflict
Individual Development
Intuitions Of Reality
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
Natural Selection
Naturalistic Attacks On The Autonomy Of The Spiritual
No Parallelism
Other Instances Of Dissatisfaction With The Theory Of Descent
Pre-eminence Of Consciousness
Preyer's Position
Religion And The Theory Of Descent
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
Various Forms Of Darwinism
Virchow's Caution
Virchow's Position
Weismann's Evolutionist Position
What Is Distinctive In The Naturalistic Outlook
What Is Distinctive In The Religious Outlook

The Contingency Of The World

But we need not dwell in the meantime on these and the many other
difficulties and riddles presented by our cosmological hypothesis. However
these may be solved, a general consideration will remain--namely, that
whether the world is governed by law or not, whether it is sufficient unto
itself or not, there is a world full of the most diverse phenomena, and
there are laws. Whence then have both these come? Is it a matter of
course, is it quite obvious that they should exist at all, and that they
should be exactly as they are? We do not here appeal without further
ceremony to the saying "everything must have a cause, therefore the world
also." It is not absolutely correct. For instance, if the world were so
constituted that it would be impossible for it not to exist, that the
necessity for its existence and the inconceivability of its non-existence
were at once explicit and obvious, then there would be no sense in
inquiring after a cause. In regard to a "necessary" thing, if there were
any such, we cannot ask, "Why, and from what cause does this exist?" If it
was necessary, that implies that to think of it as not existing would be
ridiculous, and logically or metaphysically impossible. Unfortunately
there are no "necessary" things, so that we cannot illustrate the case by
examples. But there are at least necessary truths as distinguished from
contingent truths. And thus some light may be brought into the matter for
the inexpert. For instance, a necessary truth is contained in the
sentence, "Everything is equal to itself," or, "The shortest distance
between two points is a straight line." We cannot even conceive of the
contrary. Therefore these axioms have no reasons, and can neither be
deduced nor proved. Every question as to their reasons is quite
meaningless. As examples of a "contingent" truth we may take "It rains
to-day," or "The earth revolves round the sun." For neither one nor the
other of these is necessarily so. It is so as a matter of fact, but under
other circumstances it might have been otherwise. The contrary can be
conceived of and represented, and has in itself an equal degree of
possibility. Therefore such a fact requires to be and is capable of being
reasoned out. I can and must ask, "How does it happen that it rains
to-day? What are the reasons for it?" But as we must seek for sufficient
reasons for "contingent" truths, that is, for those of which the contrary
was equally possible, so assuredly we must seek for sufficient causes for
"contingent" phenomena and events, those which can be thought of as not
existing, or as existing in a different form. For these we must find
causes and actual reasons. Otherwise they have no foundation. The element
of "contingency" must be done away with; they must be shown to result from
sufficient causes. That is to say nothing less than that they must be
traced back to some necessity. For it is one of the curious fundamental
convictions of our reason, and one in which all scientific investigation
has its ultimate roots, that what is "contingent" is only apparently so,
and in reality is in some way or other based on necessity. Therefore
reason seeks causes for everything.

The search for causes involves showing that a thing was necessary. And
this must obviously apply to the world as a whole. If it were quite
obvious that the world and its existence as it is were necessary, that is,
that it would be contrary to reason to think of the world, and its
phenomena, and their obedience to law as non-existent, or as different
from what they are, all inquiry would be at an end. This would be the
ultimate necessity in which all the apparent contingency of isolated
phenomena and existences was firmly based. But this is far from being the
case. That anything exists, and that the world exists, is for us
absolutely the greatest "contingency" of all, and in regard to it we can
and must continually ask, "Why does anything exist at all, and why should
it not rather be non-existent?" Indeed, all our quest for sufficient
causes here reaches its climax. In more detail: that these celestial
systems and bodies, the ether, attraction and gravitation should exist,
and that everything should be governed by definite laws, all literally "as
if shot from a pistol," there must undoubtedly be some sufficient reason,
certain as it is that we shall never discover it. It is true, as some one
has said, that we live not only in a very fortuitous world, but in an
incredibly improbable one. And this is not affected by the fact that the
world is completely governed by law. Law only confirms it. The fact that
all details may be clearly and mathematically calculated in no way
prevents them from being fundamentally contingent. For they are only so
calculable on the basis of the given fundamental characters of the world.
And that is precisely the problem: "Why do these characters exist and not
quite different ones, and why should any exist at all?"

If any one should say: "Well, we must just content ourselves with
recognising the essentially 'contingent' nature of existence, for we shall
never be able to get beyond that," he would be right in regard to the
second statement. To get beyond that and to see what it is--eternal and in
itself necessary--that lies at the basis of this world of "contingency" is
indeed impossible. But he would be wrong as to the first part of the
assertion. For no one will "content himself." For that all chance is
only apparently chance, and is ultimately based in necessity, is a
deeply-rooted and fundamental conviction of our reason, one which directs
all scientific investigation, and which cannot be ignored. It demands
ceaselessly something necessary as the permanent basis of contingent
existence. And this fact is and remains the truth involved in the
"cosmological proofs of the existence of God" of former days. It was
certainly erroneous to suppose that "God" could be proved. For it is a
long way from that "idea of necessity" to religious experience of God. And
it was erroneous, too, to suppose that anything could be really "proved."
What is necessary can never really be proved from what is contingent. But
the recognition of the contingent nature of the world is a stimulus that
stirs up within our reason the idea of the necessary, and it is a fact
that reason finds rest only in this idea.

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