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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 Problema Continui

The problem of descent thus shows itself to be one which has neither
isolated character nor special value. It is an accessory accompaniment of
all the questions and problems which have been raised by, or are
associated with, the doctrine of evolution, which would have been in our
midst without Darwin, which are made neither easier nor more difficult by
zoological knowledge, and the difficulties of which, if solved, would
solve at the same time any difficulties presented by descent. The
following considerations will serve to make this clear. The most
oppressive corollary of the doctrine of descent is undoubtedly that
through it the human race seems to become lost in the infra-human, from
which it cannot be separated by any hard and fast boundaries, or absolute
lines of demarcation. But it is easy to see that this problem is in fact
only a part of a larger problem, and that it can really be solved only
through the larger one. Even if it were possible to do away with this
unpleasing inference as regards the whole human race, so that it could be
in some way separated off securely from the animal kingdom, the same
fatality would remain in regard to each individual human being. For we
have here to face the problem of individual development by easy
transitions, the ascent from the animal to the human state, and the
question: When is there really soul and spirit, when man and ego, when
freedom and responsibility? But this is the same problem again, only
written with smaller letters, the general problema continui in the
domain of life and mind. And the problem is very far-reaching. In all
questions concerning mental health and disease, abnormalities or cases of
arrest at an early stage of mental development, concerning the greater or
less degree of endowment for intellectual, moral, and religious life, down
to utter absence of capacity, and this in relation to individuals as well
as races and peoples, and times; and again, concerning the gradual
development of the ethical and religious consciousness in the long course
of history, in its continuity and gradual transition from lower to higher
forms: everywhere we meet this same problema continui. And our
oppressive difficulty is bound up with this problem, and can be dispelled
only by its solution, for the gist of the difficulty is nothing else than
the gradualness of human becoming.

This is not the place for a thoroughgoing discussion of this problema
continui. We can only call to mind here that the "evolution idea" has
been the doctrine of the great philosophical systems from Aristotle to
Leibnitz, and of the great German idealist philosophers, in whose school
the religious interpretation of the world is at home. We may briefly
emphasise the most important considerations to be kept in mind in forming
a judgment as to gradual development.

1. To recognise anything as in course of evolving does not mean that we
understand its "becoming." The true inwardness of "becoming" is hidden in
the mystery of the transcendental.

2. The gradual origin of the highest and most perfect from the primitive
in no way affects the specific character, the uniqueness and newness of
the highest stage, when compared with its antecedents. For, close as each
step is to the one below, and directly as it seems to arise out of it,
each higher step has a minimum and differentia of newness (or at least an
individual grouping of the elements of the old), which the preceding stage
does not explain, or for which it is not a sufficient reason, but which
emerges as new from the very heart of things.

3. Evolution does not diminish the absolute value of the perfect stage,
which is incomparably greater than the value of the intermediate stages,
it rather accentuates it. The stages from the half-developed acorn-shoot
are not equivalent in value to the perfect tree; they are to it as means
to an end, and are of minimal value compared with it.

4. All "descent" and "evolution," which, even in regard to the gradual
development of physical organisation and its secrets, offer not so much an
explanation as a clue, are still less sufficient in regard to the origin
and growth of psychical capacity in general, and in relation to the
awakening and autonomy of the mind in man, because the psychical and
spiritual cannot be explained in terms of physiological processes, from
either the quantity or the quality of nervous structure.

This problem, and the relation of the human spirit to the animal mind,
will fall to be dealt with in Chapter XI. It is neither the right nor the
duty of the religious conception of the world to inquire into and choose
between the different forms of the idea of descent which we have met with.
If it has made itself master of the general evolution idea, then descent,
even in its most gradual, continuous, monophyletic form, affects it not at
all. It can then look on, perhaps not with joy, but certainly without
anxiety, at Dubois' monkey-man and Friedenthal's chimpanzee. On the other
hand, it is obvious that a secret bond of sympathy will always unite it
with the right wing of the theory of descent, with the champions of
"halmatogenesis,"(32) heterogenesis,(33) kaleidoscopic readjustment, &c.,
because in all these the depth and wealth and the mystery of phenomena are
more obviously recognisable. For the same reasons the religious outlook
must always be interested in all protests against over-hastiness, against
too great confidence in hypotheses, and against too rapid simplification
and formulation. And it is not going beyond our province to place some
reliance on the fact that there are increasing signs of revolt from the
too great confidence hitherto shown in relation to the Theory of Descent.
The general frame of the theory will certainly never be broken, but the
enclosed picture of natural evolution will be less plain and plausible,
more complex and subtle, more full of points of interrogation and
recognitions of the limits of our knowledge and the depths of things.

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Previous: Religion And The Theory Of Descent

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