The True Naturalism

But naturalism becomes fundamentally different when it ceases to remain at

the level of naive or fancifully conceived ideas of "nature" and "natural

occurrences," when, instead of poetry or religious sentiments, it

incorporates something else, namely, exact natural science and the idea of

a mathematical-mechanical calculability in the whole system of nature.

"Nature" and "happening naturally", as used by the naive intelligence, are
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half animistic ideas and modes of expression, which import into nature, or

leave in it, life and soul, impulse, and a kind of will. And that

speculative form of naturalism which tends to become religious develops

this fault to its utmost. But a "nature" like this is not at all a

possible subject for natural science and exact methods, not a subject for

experiment, calculation, and fixed laws, for precise interpretation, or

for interpretation on simple rational principles. Instead of the naive,

poetical, and half mystical conceptions of nature we must have a really

scientific one, so that, so to speak, the supernatural may be eliminated

from nature, and the apparently irrational rationalised; that is, so that

all its phenomena may be traced back to simple, unequivocal, and easily

understood processes, the actual why and how of all things perceived, and

thus, it may be, understood; so that, in short, everything may be seen to

come about "by natural means."

There is obviously one domain and order of processes in nature which

exactly fulfils those requirements, and is really in the fullest sense

"natural," that is, quite easily understood, quite rational, quite

amenable to computation and measurement, quite rigidly subordinate to laws

which can be formulated. These are the processes of physics and chemistry,

and in a still higher degree those of movement in general, the processes

of mechanics in short. And to bring into this domain and subordinate to

its laws everything that occurs in nature, all becoming, and passing away,

and changing, all development, growth, nutrition, reproduction, the origin

of the individual and of the species, of animals and of man, of the living

and the not living, even of sensation and perception, impulse, desire and

instinct, will and thought--this alone would really be to show that things

"happen naturally," that is, to explain everything in terms of natural

causes. And the conviction that this can be done is the only true


Naturalism of this type is fundamentally different in mood and character

from the naive and poetic form, and is, indeed, in sharp contrast to it.

It is working against the very motives which are most vital to the

latter--namely, reverence for and deification of nature. Where the two

types of naturalism really understand themselves nothing but sharp

antagonism can exist between them. Those on the one side must condemn this

unfeeling and irreverent, cold and mathematical dissection and analysis of

the "Great Goddess" as a sacrilege and outrage. And those on the other

side must utterly reject as romantic the view which is summed up in the

confession: "Ist nicht Kern der Natur Menschen im Herzen?" [Is not the

secret of nature in the human heart?]