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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 Mystery Of Existence Remains Unexplained

1. Let us begin with the problem of the mystery of all existence, and see
whether it remains unaffected, or whether it disappears in face of
naturalistic interpretation, with its discovery and formulation of law and
order, with its methods of measuring and computing. More primary even than
faith and heartfelt trust in everlasting wisdom and purposeful Providence
there is piety; there is devout sense of awe before the marvellous and
mysterious, before the depth and the hidden nature of all things and all
being, before unspeakable mysteries over which we hover, and abysmal
depths over which we are borne. In a world which had not these, and could
not be first felt in this way, religion could not live at all. It could
not sail on its too shallow waters, or breathe its too thin air. It is
indeed a fact that what alone we can fitly speak of and love as
religion--the sense of mystery and the gentle shuddering of piety before
the depth of phenomena and their everlasting divine abysses,--has its true
place and kingdom in the world of mind and history, with its experiences,
riddles, and depths. But mystery is to be found in the world of nature as
well. It is only to a very superficial study that it could appear as
though nature were, or ever could become, plain and obvious, as if the
veil of Isis which shrouds its depths from all investigation could ever be
torn away. From this point of view it would make no difference even though
the attempt to range the whole realm of nature under the sway of
inviolable laws were to be immediately successful. This is expressed in
the first of our main propositions (p. 35).

In order to realise this it is necessary to reflect for a little on the
relation of "explanation" and "description" to one another, and on what is
meant by "establishing laws" and "understanding" in general. The aim of
all investigation is to understand the world. To understand it obviously
means something more than merely to know it. It is not enough for us to
know things, that is, to know what, how many, and what different kinds of
things there are. On the contrary, we want to understand them, to know how
they came to be as they are, and why they are precisely as they are. The
first step towards this understanding is merely to know, that is, we must
rightly apprehend and disentangle the things and processes of the world,
grouping them, and describing them adequately and exhaustively.

But what I have merely described I have not yet understood; I am only
preparing to try to understand it. It stands before me enveloped in all
its mystery, and I must now begin to attempt to solve it, for describing
is not explaining; it is only challenging explanation. The next step is to
discover and formulate the laws. For when man sifts out things and
processes and follows them out into their changes and stages he discovers
the iron regularity of sequences, the strictly defined lines and paths,
the inviolable order and connection in things and occurrences, and he
formulates these into laws, ascribing to them the idea of necessity which
he finds in himself. In so doing he makes distinct progress, for he can
now go beyond what is actually seen, he can draw inferences with certainty
as to effects and work back to causes. And thus order, breadth of view,
and uniformity are brought into his acquaintance with facts, and his
science begins. For science does not merely mean acquaintance with
phenomena in their contingent or isolated occurrence, manifold and varied
as that may be; it is the discovery and establishment of the laws and
general modes of occurrence. Without this we might collect curiosities,
but we should not have science. And to discover this network of
uniformities throughout all phenomena, in the movements of the heavenly
bodies and in the living substance of the cell alike, is the primary aim
of all investigation. We are still far away from this goal, and it is more
than questionable whether we shall ever reach it.

But if the goal should ever be reached, if, in other words, we should ever
be able to say with certainty what must result if occurrences a and b
are given, or what a and b must have been when c occurs, would
explanation then have taken the place of description? Or would
understanding have replaced mystery? Obviously not at all. It has indeed
often been supposed that this would be the case. People have imagined they
have understood, when they have seen that "that is always so, and that it
always happens in this particular way." But this is a naive idea. The
region of the described has merely become larger, and the riddle has
become more complex. For now we have before us not only the things
themselves, but the more marvellous laws which "govern" them. But laws are
not forces or impelling causes. They do not cause anything to happen, and
they do not explain anything. And as in the case of things so in that of
laws, we want to know how they are, whence they come, and why they are as
they are and not quite different. The fact that we have described them
simply excites still more strongly the desire to explain them. To explain
is to be able to answer the question "Why?"

Natural science is very well aware of this. It calls its previous
descriptions "merely historical," and it desires to supplement these with
aetiology, causal explanation, a deeper interpretation, that in its turn
will make laws superfluous, because it will penetrate so deeply into the
nature of things that it will see precisely why these, and not other laws
of variation, of development, of becoming, hold sway. This is just the
meaning of the "reductions" of which we have already spoken. For instance,
in regard to crystal formation, "explanation" will have replaced
description only when, instead of demonstrating the forms and laws
according to which a particular crystal always and necessarily arises out
of a particular solution, we are able to show why, from a particular
mixture and because of certain co-operating molecular forces, and of other
more primary, more remote, but also intelligible conditions, these forms
and processes of crystallisation should always and of necessity occur. If
this explanation were possible, the "law" would also be explained, and
would therefore become superfluous. From this and similar examples we can
learn at what point "explanation" begins to replace description, namely,
when processes resolve themselves into simpler processes from the
concurrence of which they arise. This is exactly what natural science
desires to bring about, and what naturalism hopes ultimately to succeed
in, thereby solving the riddle of existence.

But this kind of reduction to simpler terms only becomes "explanation"
when these simpler terms are themselves clear and intelligible and not
merely simple; that is to say, when we can immediately see why the simpler
process occurs, and by what means it is brought about, when the question
as to the "why" is no longer necessary, because, on becoming aware of the
process, we immediately and directly perceive that it is a matter of
course, indisputable, and requiring no proof. If this is not the case, the
reduction to simpler terms has been misleading. We have only replaced one
unintelligibility by another, one description by another, and so simply
pushed back the whole problem. Naturalism supposes that by this gradual
pushing back the task will at least become more and more simple, until at
last a point is reached where the riddle will solve itself, because
description becomes equivalent to explanation. This final stage is
supposed to be found in the forces of attraction and repulsion, with which
the smallest similar particles of matter are equipped. Out of the
endlessly varied correlations of these there arise all higher forms of
energy and all the combinations which make up more complex phenomena.

But in reality this does not help us at all. For now we are definitely
brought face to face with the quite unanswerable question, How, from all
this homogeneity and unity of the ultimate particles and forces, can we
account for the beginnings of the diversity which is so marked a
characteristic of this world? Whence came the causes of the syntheses to
higher unities, the reasons for the combination into higher resultants of

But even apart from that, it is quite obvious that we have not yet reached
the ultimate point. For can "attraction," influence at a distance, vis a
fronte, be considered as a fact which is in itself clear? Is it not
rather the most puzzling fundamental riddle we can be called upon to
explain? Assuredly. And therefore the attempt is made to penetrate still
deeper to the ultimate point, the last possible reduction to simpler
terms, by referring all actual "forces" and reducing all movement, and
therewith all "action," to terms of attraction and repulsion, which are
free from anything mysterious, whose mode of working can be unambiguously
and plainly set forth in the law of the parallelogram of forces. Law? Set
forth? Therefore still only description? Certainly only description, not
explanation in the least. Even assuming that it is true, instead of a mere
Utopia, that all the secrets and riddles of nature can be traced back to
matter moved by attraction and repulsion according to the simplest laws of
these, they would still only be summed up into a great general riddle,
which is only the more colossal because it is able to embrace all others
within itself. For attraction and repulsion, the transference of motion,
and the combination of motion according to the law of the parallelogram of
forces--all this is merely description of processes whose inner causes we
do not understand, which appear simple, and are so, but are nevertheless
not self-evident or to be taken as a matter of course; they are not in
themselves intelligible, but form an absolute "world-riddle." From the
very root of things there gazes at us the same Sphinx which we had
apparently driven from the foreground.

But furthermore, this reduction to simpler terms is an impossible and
never-ending task. There is fresh confusion at every step. In reducing to
simpler terms, it is often forgotten that the principle of combination is
not inherent in the more simple, and cannot be "reduced." Or else there is
an ignoring of the fact that a transition has been made, not from
resultants to components, but to quite a different kind of phenomena.
Innumerable as are the possible reductions to simpler terms, and mistaken
as it would be to remain prematurely at the level of description, it
cannot be denied that the fundamental facts of the world are pure facts
which must simply be accepted where they occur, indisputable,
inexplicable, impenetrable, the "whence" and the "how" of their existence
quite uncomprehended. And this is especially true of every new and
peculiar expression of what we call energy and energies. Gravitation
cannot be reduced to terms of attraction and repulsion, nor action at a
distance to action at close quarters; it might, indeed, be shown that
repulsion in its turn presupposes attraction before it can become
possible; the "energies" of ponderable matter cannot be reduced to the
"ether" and its processes of motion, nor the complex play of the chemical
affinities to the attraction of masses in general or to gravity. And thus
the series ascends throughout the spheres of nature up to the mysterious
directive energies in the crystal, and to the underivable phenomena of
movement in the living substance, perhaps even to the functions of
will-power. All these can be discovered, but not really understood. They
can be described, but not explained. And we are absolutely ignorant as to
why they should have emerged from the depth of nature, what that depth
really is, or what still remains hidden in her mysterious lap. Neither
what nature reveals to us nor what it conceals from us is in any true
sense "comprehended," and we flatter ourselves that we understand her
secrets when we have only become accustomed to them. If we try to break
the power of this accustomedness and to consider the actual relations of
things there dawns in us a feeling already awakened by direct impressions
and experience; the feeling of the mysterious and enigmatical, of the
abyssmal depths beneath, and of what lies far above our comprehension,
alike in regard to our own existence and every other. The world is at no
point self-explanatory, but at all points marvellous. Its laws are only
formulated riddles.

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