The Two Kinds Of Naturalism





But let us return to the two kinds of naturalism we have already

described. Much as they differ from one another in reality, they are very

readily confused and mixed up with one another. And the chief peculiarity

of what masquerades as naturalism among our educated or half-educated

classes to-day lies in the fact that it is a mingling of the two kinds.

Unwittingly, people combine the moods of the one with the reasons and

methods of the other; and having done so they appear to themselves

particularly consistent and harmonious in their thought, and are happy

that they have been able thus to satisfy at once the needs of the

intellect and those of the heart.



On the one hand they stretch the mathematical-mechanical view as far as

possible from below upwards, and even attempt to explain the activities of

life and consciousness as the results of complex reflex mechanisms. And on

the other hand they bring down will soul and instincts into the lowest

stages of existence, and become quite animistic. They wish to be nothing

if not "exact," and yet they reckon Goethe and Bruno among the greatest

apostles of their faith, and set their verses and sayings as a credo and

motto over their own opinions. In this way there arises a "world

conception" so indiarubber-like and Protean that it is as difficult as it

is unsatisfactory to attempt to come to an understanding with it. If we

attempt to get hold of it by the fringe of poetry and idealism it has

assumed, it promptly retires into its "exact" half. And if we try to limit

ourselves to this, in order to find a basis for discussion, it spreads out

before us all the splendours of a great nature pantheism, including even

the ideas of the good, the true, and the beautiful. One thing only it

neglects, and that is, to show where its two very different halves meet,

and what inner bond unites them. Thus if we are to discuss it at all, we

must first of all pick out and arrange all the foreign and mutually

contradictory constituents it has incorporated, then deal with Pantheism

and Animism, and with the problem of the possibility of "the true, the

good, the beautiful" on the naturalistic-empiric basis, and finally there

would remain a readily-grasped residue of naturalism of the second form,

to come to some understanding with which is both necessary and

instructive.



In the following pages we shall confine ourselves entirely to this type,

and we shall not laboriously disentangle it from the bewildering medley of

ideas foreign to it, or attempt to make it consistent; we shall neglect

these, and have regard solely to its clear fundamental principles and

aims. Thus regarded, its horizons are perfectly well-defined. It is

startling in its absolute poverty of ideal content, warmth, and charm, but

impressive and grand in the perseverance and tenacity with which it

adheres to one main point of view throughout. In reality, it is aggressive

to nothing, but cold and indifferent to everything, and for this very

reason is more dangerous than all the excited protests and verdicts of the

enthusiastic type of naturalism, which it is impossible to attack, because

of its lack of definite principles, and which, in the pathetic stress it

lays on worshipping nature, lives only by what it has previously borrowed

from the religious conceptions of the world.





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