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CRITICISM OF MECHANICAL THEORIES

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



The Position Of Bunge And Other Physiologists








For a long time one of the most prominent figures in the controversy was
Prof. G. Bunge, of Basle, who was one of the first modern physiologists to
champion vitalism, and who has tried to show by analogies and
illustrations what is necessarily implied in vital activity.(82) The
mechanical reduction of vital phenomena to physico-chemical forces, he
says, is impossible, and becomes more and more so as our knowledge
deepens. He brings forward a series of convincing examples of the way in
which apparent mechanical explanations have broken down. The absorption of
the chyle through the walls of the intestine seemed to be a mechanically
intelligible process of osmosis and diffusion. But in reality it proves to
be rather a process of selection on the part of the epithelial cells of
the intestine, analogous to the selection and rejection exercised
elsewhere by unicellular organisms. In the same way the epithelial cells
of the mammary glands "select" the suitable substances from the blood. It
is impossible to explain in a mechanical way the power which directs the
innumerable different chemical and physical processes within the organism,
whether they be the bewilderingly purposeful reactions in the individual
life of the cell, which seem to point to psychic processes within the
plasm, or the riddles of development and of inheritance in particular; for
how can a spermatozoon, so small that 500 millions can lie on a cubic
line, be the bearer of all the peculiarities of the father to the son?

In Lecture III. Bunge defines his attitude towards the law of the
conservation of energy. In so doing he unconsciously follows the lines
laid down by Descartes. All processes of movement and all functions
exhibited by the living substance are the results of the accumulated
potential energies, and the sums of work done and energy utilised remain
the same. But the liberation and the direction of these energies is a
factor by itself, which neither increases nor diminishes the sum of
energies. "Occasiones" and "causae" are brought into the field once
more. The energies effect the phenomena, but they require "occasiones"
to liberate them--thus a stone may fall to the ground by virtue of the
potential energies stored in it at the time of its suspension, but it
cannot fall until the thread by which it hangs has been cut. The function
of the "occasio" itself is something quite outside of and without
relation to the effect caused; it is a matter of indifference whether the
thread be cut gently through with a razor or shot in two with a cannon
ball.

Kassowitz(83) is an instructive example of how much the force of criticism
has been recognised even by those occupying a convinced mechanical point
of view. He subjects all the different theories which attempt to explain
the chief vital phenomena in mechanical terms to a long and exhaustive
examination. The theories of the organism as a thermodynamic engine,
osmotic theories, theories of ferments, interpretations in terms of
electro-dynamics and molecular-physics--are all examined (chap. iv.); and
the failure of all these hypotheses, notwithstanding the enormous amount
of ingenuity expended in their construction, is summed up in an emphatic
"Ignoramus." "The failure is a striking one," and it is frankly admitted
that, in strong contrast to the earlier mood of confident hope, there now
prevails a mood of resignation in regard to the mechanical-experimental
investigation of the living organism, and that even specialists of the
first rank are finding that they have to reckon again seriously with vital
force. This breakdown and these admissions do not exactly tend to
prejudice us in favour of the author's own attempt to substantiate new
mechanical theories.

In the comprehensive text-book of physiological chemistry by R.
Neumeister, the mechanical standpoint seemed to be adhered to as the
ideal. But the same writer forsakes it entirely, and disputes it
energetically in his most recent work, "Betrachtungen ueber das Wesen der
Lebenserscheinungen"(84) ("Considerations as to the Nature of Vital
Phenomena"). He passes over all the larger problems, such as those of
development, inheritance, regeneration, and confines himself in the main
to the physiological functions of protoplasm, especially to those of the
absorption of food and metabolism. And he shows, by means of
illustrations, in part Bunge's, in part his own, and in close sympathy
with Wundt's views, that even these vital phenomena cannot possibly be
explained in terms of chemical affinity, physical osmosis, and the like.
In processes of selection (such as, for instance, the excretion of urea
and the retention of sugar in the blood), the "aim is obvious, but the
causes cannot be recognised." Psychical processes play a certain part in
the functions of protoplasm in the form of qualitative and quantitative
sensitiveness. All the mechanical processes in living organisms are
initiated and directed by psychical processes. Physical, chemical and
mechanical laws are perfectly valid, but they are not absolutely dominant.
Living matter is to be defined as "a unique chemical system, the molecules
of which, by their peculiar reciprocal action, give rise to psychical and
material processes in such a way that the processes of the one kind are
always causally conditioned and started by those of the other kind." The
psychical phenomena he regards as transcendental, supernatural,
"mystical," yet unquestionably also subject to a strict causal nexus,
although the causality must remain for ever concealed. Starting from this
basis, he analyses and rejects the explanations which have been offered in
terms of the analogy of ferments, enzymes, or catalytic processes. In
particular, he disputes Ostwald's "Energismus" and Verworn's Biogen
hypothesis.(85)

Among the vitalists of to-day, one of the most frequently cited, perhaps,
except Driesch the most frequently cited, is G. Wolff, a Privatdozent,
formerly at Wuerzburg, now at Basle. He has only published short lectures
and essays, and these deal not so much with the mechanical theory as with
Darwinism.(86) But in these writings his main argument is that of his
concluding chapter: the spontaneous adaptiveness of the organism, which
nullifies all contingent theories to explain the purposiveness in ontogeny
and phylogeny. And in his lecture, "Mechanismus und Vitalismus,"(87) in
which he directs his attention especially to criticising Buetschli's
defence of mechanism, the only problem to which prominence is given is the
one with which we are here concerned. In spite of their brevity, these
writings have given rise to much controversy, because what is peculiar to
the two standpoints is described with precision, and the problem is
clearly defined. His criticism had its starting-point in, and received a
special impulse from an empirical proof, due to a very happy experiment of
his own, of the marvellous regenerative capacity, and the inherent
purposive activity of the living organism. He succeeded in proving that if
the lens of the eye of the newt be excised, it may be regrown. The
importance of this fact is greatly increased if we trace out in detail the
various impossible rival mechanical interpretations which have grown up
around this interesting case. As Driesch says, "It is not a restoration
starting from the wound, it is a substitution starting from a different
place."





Next: The Views Of Botanists Illustrated

Previous: Preyer's Position



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