A Brief History of Modern Philosophy
by Harald Høffding
Eighth Book: New Theories of the Problem of Being upon a Realistic Basis.
212099A Brief History of Modern Philosophy — Eighth Book: New Theories of the Problem of Being upon a Realistic Basis.Harald Høffding


New Solutions of the Problem of Being on the Basis of Realism

The romantic philosophy believed it could reform natural science. And this notwithstanding the fact that at the very time of the origin of this philosophy, the closing decades of the eighteenth century, natural science was making astounding progress. The traditional conviction of the persistence of matter throughout all changes was experimentally demonstrated by Lavoisier, by means of the quantitative method,—by weighing,—and the fundamental laws governing the material changes involved in the constitution of plant and animal life were discovered by a number of investigators (Priestley, Saussure, etc.), and organic life was thus incorporated within the majestic cycle of material processes.

Natural science received a new impetus during the forties of the nineteenth century, due especially to Robert Mayer's discovery of the principle of the conservation of energy (1842). Ideas which had already been suggested by Descartes, Huyghens and Leibnitz now received their empirical authentication, because the demonstration that there is no dissipation of force, already established in pure mechanics, could likewise be demonstrated in the interaction of the particular forces of nature, because it could be shown that a definite quantitative relation exists between the potential value (e. g. motion) which vanishes and the new potential value (e. g. heat) which arises.

In addition to this we note Darwin's hypothesis of the origin of the species announced during the fifties. Natural science thus demonstrated the existence of a profound vital relationship, where man had previously seen nothing more than gaps and fragments, in a brilliant manner. The only question was as to what would be the bearing of these discoveries on the treatment of philosophic problems. The appropriation of the new views came most natural to positivism, and we have already seen how Herbert Spencer endeavored to incorporate them in his evolutional system.

The new impulse of natural science furnished the occasion for a large German literature of a materialistic trend, which had the effect of disseminating the ideas and discoveries of natural science very widely. About the middle of the nineteenth century the German literature of a materialists were supported in their opposition to dogmatics and spiritualistic speculations—as had been the case with their French precursors of the eighteenth century—by an idealistic movement based upon the interests of humanity and progress. It is to be observed that idealism is not incongruous with theoretical materialism: the materialist can consistently recognize the value of mental phenomena and efficiency, even though he does regard them as due to mere molecular changes.

The most noted writer in this movement is the physiologist, Jacob Moleschott (1822–1893), who was born in Holland, was Docent at Heidelberg in his youth, and, after being dismissed there on account of his views, went to Zurich and later to Italy, where he enjoyed a long and successful career as professor of physiology. In his book, Kreislauf des Lebens (1852), he extols chemistry as the highest science because it shows how matter—and together with matter, how life, and with life in turn, how thought—accomplishes its sublime cycle. He expounds the history of his ideas in his autobiography (An meine Freunde, Reminiscences, 1895) and says that as a matter of fact his only contention was against dualism, and that his theory—on account of the inherent relation of force, mind and matter—might quite as well be called idealism as materialism!

The physician, Louis Büchner (1824–1899), whose Kraft und Stoff (1855) was for a long time one of the most widely read books of the age, similarly goes beyond the specific views of materialism, only less clearly, and this is likewise the case with Heinrich Czolbe (1819–1873), who, like Büchner and Moleschott, was also a physician. Czolbe directly inverts the proposition that sensation is motion, and consequently attains an idealistic theory (Die Enistehung des Selbstbewusstseins, 1856). In his later works he undertook to establish a new world theory by the use of more speculative methods. It is a matter of peculiar interest in the case of Czolbe that he is fully aware of assuming certain axiomatic principles, namely, the theoretical requirement of the perspicuous and intuitive nature of thought, and the ethical requirement of life and its relations in the present world-order, with complete exclusion of everything transcendent.

A little later the famous zoologist, Ernst Haeckel (born 1834), undertook to organize the latest results and hypotheses of natural science into a system of Monism. The first work specifically devoted to this purpose was his Generalle Morphologie (1862–1866), which was followed by his more vigorous and more dogmatic Welträtzel (1899). He regards everything as animated; atoms and ceils have souls as well as the brain. These souls may interpose in material processes on the one hand just as material processes may be the causes of psychical phenomena on the other. The Monism of Haeckel therefore combines spiritualistic and materialistic ideas in a way that is not altogether clear. But Haeckel's significance, who in this respect shows an affinity to the thinkers of the Renaissance, does not consist in his logical consistency, but in the tremendous enthusiasm aroused by his ideas, and in the fanciful vividness of his expositions.

It appears therefore that dogmatic materialism, according to the testimony of the materialistic author himself, is no longer possible. The results of criticism have therefore not been in vain.

Another group of thinkers who still adhered to the fundamental principles of romanticism, even though they clearly saw the necessity of a reconstruction of the foundation and a restatement of deflations, elaborated the results of modern science in an entirely different way from the investigators just mentioned.

A. The New Idealism in Germany.

1. Hermann Lotze (1817–1881) began his scholastic career as a scientist and as a philosopher contemporaneously, but eventually devoted himself wholly to philosophy, in which capacity he served the University of Göttingen for a number of years. As a scientist he aimed to treat medicine and physiology as pure natural sciences, without reference to any appeal to a specific "vital force" such as was then still in vogue. He construes the phenomena which characterize organisms as the results of the coöperation of material elements according to the laws of physics and chemistry (Allgemeine Pathologie und Therapie als mechanische Naturwissenschaften, 1842; Allgemeine Physiologie, 1851). He had even previous to this given expression to his philosophical ideas (Metaphysik, 1840) which were more fully elaborated later on (Medicinische Psychologie, 1852, and Mikrokosmus, 1864—1868), and brought to their conclusion in the Drei Bücher der Logik (1874) and the Drei Bücher der Metaphysik (1879).

Lotze's reflections have a twofold starting-point, the mechanical view of modern science, the application of which to organic life he insisted on, and the fundamental principles of romantic idealism. The resulting problem for him therefore was to show how to reconcile these two points of view. He was firmly convinced that being cannot consist of a mere mechanism, and just as firmly that the highest ideas cannot be realized except by the method of causal, mechanical processes. He then seeks to show, by the analysis of the conception of mechanism developed by the modern sciences, how we are led to presuppositions which may readily be reconciled with idealistic principles.

The mechanical theory of nature regards all phenomena as determined by the interactions of atoms. This conception follows as the inevitable presupposition of the scientific explanation of natural phenomena. But it does not follow from this that mechanism should be the last word of reflective thought. There are two points at which it transcends itself.

The atoms of natural science are extended, even though their extension may be regarded as infinitely small. But whatever is extended must consists of parts and cannot therefore be regarded as absolutely simple. And extension is an attribute, a quality, which, like all other qualities, demands its explanation, an explanation which—according to the principles of science and after the analogy of the explanation of colors and tones—can be found only in the reciprocity of elements. These elements must therefore be still more simple than the atoms of natural science. They cannot be extended, but must be centers of force by the interactions of which the phenomenon which we call extension arises.

But this interaction would be inconceivable if the ultimate elements in themselves were absolutely independent. The only way in which the element A can affect the element B requires that A and B are not absolutely different entities; their respective states must really be the states of one and the same principle which comprehends them both: this is the only way of explaining the possibility of an inner (immanent) transition from a status A to a status B. We are thus driven to the ultimate concept of an original substance (as above to the ultimate concept of centers of force). Beyond this the analysis of the concept of mechanism cannot go.

But there is likewise another source of information on this point. Where analysis fails we must resort to analogy. Lotze saw that analogy is the only recourse for the authentication of metaphysical idealism with a clearness nowhere to be found before him except in Leibnitz, Fries and Beneke. Is being in its ultimate nature spiritual or material? Lotze answers this question by saying, that if we wish to explain the unknown by reference to the known, we must inevitably construe everything material as the eternal manifestation of spiritual reality. Matter (or better materiality) is only known to us as objective, whilst we know the spiritual from our own subjectivity, as immediately identical with "our self." The only way of obtaining a comprehensible world-theory therefore is by construing the material universe after the analogy of the spiritual. In which case we construe both the elements (centers of force) and the primary substance as spiritual realities, the former representing an infinite variety of states of development, the latter as an infinite personality.

Lotze's psychology is likewise affected by his metaphysics. According to him the relation of soul and body is but a single example of interaction in general. Just as atoms can transmit impulses from one to another, so can the soul and an atom of the nervous system likewise transmit impulses from one to the other. Lotze sees no ground therefore in the principle of the conservation of energy for surrendering the common (Cartesian) conception of the interaction of soul and body. He makes a thorough study of the difficult problem of distinguishing between such mental phenomena as find their causes within the soul itself, and such as have their causes in the influences of the nervous system. Among the former are memory, reflection, the aesthetic and moral feelings, etc.; among the latter, sensations, which merely furnish the materials of thought.—Of Lotze's more specifically psychological theories we must first of all mention his ingenious doctrine of "local signs" (i.e. the specific sensations which furnish the basis of the construction of the theory of space), and then also his fine description and analysis of the relation of feeling and idea.

Although Lotze means to defend the common (Cartesian) theory of the interaction of soul and body, in his metaphysics, based on analogy, he has nevertheless made some important modifications. The interaction of soul and body is no longer (as in Descartes) an interaction of different essences, but an interaction of elements which are all of a psychical nature. And now, after finding that it is easier to conceive the interaction of soul and body, he actually grants that a causal relation is really comprehensible only between like elements.

Lotze's theory therefore culminates in a spiritualistic Monism. He likewise places increasing emphasis on the immanence of the elements in primary substance. On this latter point he stands much closer to the Spinozistic view than he is aware.

2. Edward von Hartmann (1842–1906) gave his chief work (Die Philosophie des Unbewussten, 1868) the subtitle, Speculative Resultate nach induktio-wissenschaftlicher Methode. After his military career was cut short by a fall from a horse in which he sustained a crippled knee, he finally decided, after some mental struggle, to devote himself to philosophy. He then conceived the plan of a further development of the ideas of Hegel and Schopenhauer in mutual harmony, and then to construe these romantic theories on the basis of empirical science. His program reminds us of Lotze. But whilst Lotze accepts the mechanical conception of nature with frank consistency, and inquires only concerning its presuppositions, Hartmann seeks to prove inductively that this conception of nature is inadequate, and that it requires the supplement of a spiritual principle which he calls "The Unconscious," to prevent its being construed anthropomorphically. The forces ascribed to atoms must be conceived as wills or efforts: they must have an unconscious idea of their destiny in order to be able to realize it. Matter therefore consists of idea and will. The only explanation of the organism is the guidance of its growth by an unconscious will. Between growth and instinct there is only a difference of degree. The association of ideas likewise presupposes that the unconscious within us selects the ideas which are most closely related or possess an affinity for the stock of ideas on hand. In the process of history the unconscious operates in such a way that individuals, whilst seeming to themselves to be striving for their own conscious ends, serve the higher purposes of the universe as a whole.—The activity of the unconscious is thus everywhere manifest—from atom to world-process. This principle is not personal, but rather super-personal. Hartmann nevertheless regards himself in agreement, barring several modifications, with the speculative theism of Schelling, Weisse and Lotze.

Hartmann's philosophy did not originate from pure induction. It rests on the subsumption of a psychologico-historical aperçu: namely, the observation on the one hand of the prejudicial view of mere reflection and analysis, the onesided attitude of criticism, and the tremendous importance of the immediate, the instinctive and ingenious on the other. Consciousness, according to Hartmann, is predominantly analytical, critical and negative; it is only the unconscious that furnishes the grand total and provides for the new insertions. Starting from this theoretical motive, suggesting the influence of Rousseau, and Romanticism, Hartmann finally ascribes a mystic-metaphysical character to the unconscious which is active everywhere in nature and in history—and which, in Hartmann's view, explains everything.

Replying to his opponents, in an anonymous self-criticism (Das Unbewusste vom Standpunkte der Physiologie und der Descendenslehre, 1872), he demonstrates his mastery of the methods and results of the natural sciences. He had the satisfaction of doing this work regarded as the refutation of his views.—But it is the more remarkable therefore that he could still adhere to his romantic method of explanation.

How then is the universe, in which the unconscious operates, constituted? According to Hartmann, the "inductive method" shows that there is more misery than happiness in the world. The recognition of the world's wretchedness is of course not yet fully developed, but it is growing. Men at first expected to find happiness in this present earthly life; then they hoped to be able to attain it in a future, immortal life; and when this faith likewise finally vanished, hope was centered on the happiness of future generations here upon earth. The illusion of happiness is untenable in all three of these forms. But if this is the case, the unconscious, which is everywhere active, cannot be a purely rational principle. The explanation of evil and misery can only be found in the fact that the volitional element of the unconscious has, as blind impulse, severed all relation with the ideational element and instituted the world process as the sheer "will to live."—Hartmann is here using the ideas of Böhme, Schelling and Schopenhauer. The world-process consists in a constant strife between these two elements. Here man can enter the lists as a rival. It is his business to attack the illusions, not only directly, but likewise indirectly in his efforts towards civilisation. The greater the advancement in civilisation, the more evident the illusory character of happiness becomes, for civilisation and happiness are absolute opposites. The highest aim is the redemption of the suffering of deity by the consummation of pessimism. As soon as the will-to-live is annulled, the world-process introduced by the Fall within the unconcious, referred to above, will be at an end. But this lies in the distant future. For the present therefore pessimism can feel quite at ease and at home in the world!

Besides his masterpiece, Hartmann has written a number of important works in the departments of ethics, the philosophy of religion and æsthetics, as he was, generally speaking, a rather voluminous author. Arthur Drews has published a detailed and quite sympathetic exposition of his whole activity (Hartmann's Philosophical System in Outlines, 2d ed., 1906).

3. Gustav Theodore Fechner (1801-1887) was originally a physicist. But along with his scientific investigations his mind dwelt on a world of speculation and poetic imagination in which the ideas of romanticism are peculiarly prominent,—this was especially the case after the objective world was closed to him through failure of eyesight. By the method of the most daring analogies, he construed the universe (in the highly fanciful book Zendavesta, 1851, and later in the Seelenfrage, 1861) as an animated whole within which every possible degree of psychic life is manifest,—in the form of plant and animal souls, human souls, the souls of the heavenly bodies, etc. When Fechner began to reflect on the problem of the relation of the psychical side of the universe to its physical side he came upon the fundamental idea of his masterpiece, Elemente der Psychophysik (1860). Like Kepler, with whom he shows a striking mental sympathy, he took fantastic speculations for his starting-point, but by diligent reflection he finally discovered principles which could be verified in experience. He was convinced from the beginning that the relation of spirit and matter could not be objective, as if they were different entities. Later on he defends this view (in the fifth chapter of the Elemente der Psychophysik) by appealing to the principle of the conservation of physical energy, and he is the first to have applied this principle to the relation of soul and body. He thinks that the brain and nervous system, like all matter, must come under this principle, and that the ordinary assumption of a real interaction of spirit and matter cannot therefore be correct, because in that case physical energy would begin and cease. The relation is rather one of identity, and the distinction depends on the viewpoint of the observer. Just as the observer standing on the external surface of a sphere sees nothing but convexity, and one standing on the internal surface sees only concavity, so the materialist sees nothing but matter and the idealist only spirit—and both are right, each from his own viewpoint.—The resulting problem then is, what quantitative relations do the psychical phenomena sustain to their corresponding material phenomena? Fechner thinks that this relation cannot be one of direct proportion, but that it must be logarithmic, i.e. the psychical changes correspond quantitatively to the relation of the increase of its corresponding material process and the processes already present. Fechner thus assumes that the relation between the external stimulus and the brain process to which it gives rise is directly proportional, because both are material events, but the relation between the psychical process of sensation and the brain process on the other hand must be logarithmic. He regarded Weber's Law (so called in honor of his precursor, the physiologist E. H. Weber), which he assumed and verified experimentally, as an expression of the relation of spirit and matter in general. Upon the basis of experiments of his own as well as of others, on the relation of sensation and stimulus, he found that his law applied within certain limits. This problem gave rise to a long controversy. Fechner founded experimental psychology by means of this hypothesis. He participated in this controversy with a number of articles even into his old age, but always in a serious and chivalrous spirit. But it has become more and more apparent that Fechner's law, so far as it applies at all, expresses the relation of the psychical process (sensation) and the external stimulus, but not the relation of the psychical process and the brain process, which is apparently much more directly proportional. This conception would also agree better with Fechner's hypothesis of identity (and with his excellent illustrations).

In addition to his famous masterpiece Fechner produced two more scientific works of importance: Über die physikalische, und philosophische, Atomenlehre, (1855), in which he assumes a position similar to that of Lotze with respect to the atom-concept, and Vorschule der Æsthetik (1876), in which he treats a number of æsthetic problems empirically.

W. Wundt has written an excellent essay on the inherent consistency of Fechner's intellectual labors (Gustav Theodor Fechner, Rede zur Feier seines hundertjährigen Geburtsstages, 1901').

4. William Wundt (born 1832[1], professor of physiology at Heidelberg, afterwards professor of philosophy at Zürich and since then, 1874, Leipzig) passed to philosophy from physiology, induced partly by psychological and partly by epistemological motives. After he had made the change, new motives impressed him, especially the effort to elaborate a theory of the universe and of life at once satisfying to the affections and the intellect. Wundt's final theory, according to his own conception, is closely related to the philosophy of romanticism. But Wundt's idealism has been attained by the method of scientific investigation even to a greater extent than in the case of Lotze, Hartmann and Fechner.

The psychological motives to philosophizing sprang from Wundt's investigations of the physiology of the senses. He recognized the fact that the theory of space could only arise from primary sensations by means of a creative synthesis, a synthesis whose product possesses other attributes than the elements, considered by themselves. Afterwards, while investigating the temporal progress of ideas, he came upon the problem of psychical integration (which he later called Apperception). This completed the foundation for the fundamental theories of his psychology. His Grundzüge der physiologischen Psychologie (1874, 6th ed., 1908) treats the psychological problems which can be elucidated physiologically and experimently with great thoroughness, and describes the methods and instruments of experimentation. Wundt assumes the parallelism of the physical and the psychical as a preliminary hypothesis; the difference is only a difference of viewpoint. But in its ultimate analysis he regards the psychical viewpoint as fundamental. And in his view the only necessity for assuming physiological correlates is due to the individual psychical elements which constitute the content of psychical life, not for the forms or the combinations of the elements, nor for experiences of value.

Wundt construes psychical life as pure activity. The assumption of a psychical "substance" involves the application of materialistic ideas to the sphere of spiritual reality. Psychical activity is especially evident in the form of apperception in its function of attention, association, feeling and volition. Here we have the soul as an organized whole; the whole antecedent history of consciousness expresses itself in the acts of apperception.—Wundt places increasing emphasis upon this activity in his later writings, and the concept of volition becomes his fundamental psychological concept so that (borrowing an expression of Paulsen's) he can describe his theory as voluntarism.

The epistemological motive which induced Wundt to enter the field of philosophy resulted from his recognition of the fact that all natural science rests upon certain presuppositions which condition all our knowledge (Die physikalischen Axiome und ihre Beziehung zum Kausalprinzip, 1866). Later on he elaborated his theory of knowledge partly in his Logik (1880-1883) and partly in his System der Philosophie (1887). Knowledge always begins with the conviction of the reality of our ideas. This naive realism breaks down however even by the necessity of distinguishing between sense perception, memory and imagination, and still more by scientific reflection, until it gradually yields to critical realism which substitutes object concepts which remain constant for the changing content of direct perception. In the sphere of sense perception the laws of space and time are elaborated as the expression of constant forms; in the sphere of intellectual knowledge the qualities immediately given are replaced by the concept of the object in the form of quantitative distinctions alone (spatial and temporal), whilst the psychical processes are referred to a fundamental spiritual activity. But rational knowledge, which demands a completion of knowledge by the idea of totality, carries us even farther than this. Such conclusion assumes the character of materialism whenever the ideas of natural science are taken into account alone, the character of idealism whenever the psychological ideas are taken alone. It is possible however to attain a higher view by combining the two groups of ideas, in which case being is construed as a totality of striving and willing entities whose objective phenomenal form constitutes material nature. Wundt agrees with Lotze that we are obliged to choose between a material and a spiritual unity; we must either make mind the basis of matter or vice versa; there is no third alternative! But he fails to see as clearly as Lotze that our only recourse at this point is to the argument from analogy.

In his ethics (Ethik, eine Untersuchung der Tatsachen und Gesetze des sittlichen Lebens, 1886) Wundt shows marked sympathy with German speculation, especially with Hegel. He construes the individual will as an element of the total will whence both its motives and its ideals arise. The isolated individual does not exist. And the highest ends are only found in the total will. Even where individuals seem to be laboring for their own individual ends, they may still produce something which will extend beyond their horizon and in turn give rise to new motives. This shifting process, which Wundt calls the heterogeny of ends, is the most important evolutional process of the moral consciousness. But this likewise implies that we cannot be conscious of the ultimate ends of the whole course of historical evolution. We are co-laborers in a sublime undertaking whose absolute content we can never know. At this point ethics becomes religion. Whilst the positive religions express themselves in concrete symbols, philosophy can only express the general principle that all spiritual products possess an absolute or imperishable value.

In addition to the works mentioned Wundt has published a valuable Enleitung in die Philosophie (1901), and he is at present engaged on a comprehensively planned Völkerpsychologie, the content of which consists of investigations concerning Language, Myth and Custom.

B. Modern Idealism in England and France. edit

1. Francis Herbert Bradley (born 1846[2], Fellow of Merton College, Oxford) is the most important English representative of the tendency which may be described as the New Idealism. He is particularly influenced by Kant and Hegel. Coleridge, Carlyle and Hamilton were already opposed to the classical English school as it appears in the line of thinkers from Locke to Spencer and Sidgwick. The critical turn which Sidgwick introduced into utilitarianism and the broadening of the horizon of empiricism by Spencer brought the old school to a point which required new instruments of thought. Of the two great English universities Oxford in particular represents the opposition to the classical English school. The ideas of Kant and Hegel have affected English thought particularly through the labors of T. H. Green and Edward Caird. Against the tendency of the older school to reduce psychical life to physical atoms and thus to apply the concept of mechanism without further qualification to the sphere of mind present-day thinkers propose the "organic" conception and the idea of totality. This conception is keenly apparent in Bradley's Ethical Studies (1876). The unity of consciousness is the condition without which we could not even perceive ourselves. Bradley thus takes for his starting-point (without noting the fact) the view with which Stuart Mill concluded in the later editions of his Examination of Hamilton's Philosophy. Bradley makes the ethical standard consist of the degree to which we have developed the unity which is so deeply imbedded in our nature so as to combine a rich content with inner harmony. And the metaphysical principle forms an analogy with the psychological and ethical principles: being must be conceived as coherent and consistent whole.

Bradley's chief work bears the title Appearance and Reality (1895). It consists of an investigation of the criterion by which we are enabled to distinguish true reality from mere appearance. Although Bradley himself (along with many of his critics) thinks that his position is closely identical with Hegel, and notwithstanding the fact that "the Absolute" in the Spinozistic and Hegelian sense, as of an objective final statement, appears in the background of his thought, his reflections are nevertheless more epistemological the metaphysical. Like Kant, he makes the concept of experience fundamental. True reality can only exist where complete and perfect experience — i.e. all-inclusive perception — and an absolutely mutual relation of the contents of perception — is present. This is an ideal which finite beings can approach only approximately. Neither the natural nor the mental sciences satisfy this ideal. Such concepts as matter, space, time, and energy are applicable whenever it is necessary to express the relation of finite appearances; they are working ideas, — but they can never describe the absolute nature of being. And the same is true of the psychological concepts. As a matter of course we find a more vital relationship between unity and multiplicity in the sphere of mind than in physical nature, and psychological experience therefore constitutes our highest experience. But antitheses and disharmonies take place within the psychical processes; the soul is subject to changes as a whole; and the concept of the soul — like its correlative concept, the body — is formed only by abstraction. Psychological concepts can therefore no more express absolute reality than the concepts of natural science.

When Bradley insists on the idea of the absolute, even though there is no concept that can give it adequate expression, he appears at once as a mystic and a sceptic. The unifying bond of these two sides of his nature lies in the idea of a constant striving which is the lot of all finite beings. Our thought, says Bradley, is always striving for something which is more than thought, — our personality for something which is more than personality, — our morality for something which is more than morality! The only thing which philosophy can do for us is to furnish us a criterion to serve as a guide whenever we distinguish between higher and lower degrees of reality. Religion can do no more at this point than philosophy. It too must express the highest by means of ideas which have their source in the sphere of the finite. The advantage of religion consists in the fact that it is capable of allowing the recognition of a highest reality to permeate our entire being.

Bradley has no points of contact with the special sciences, as is the case with Fechner, Lotze and Wundt. He has no interest in purely empirical considerations. He is completely absorbed in the idea of his ideal criterion. This gives energy and depth to his mode of thought, but it likewise frequently makes him unjust towards other viewpoints, even such as he could really appropriate with advantage. When, e. g., he calls the viewpoints and hypotheses of the special sciences "useless fictions" and "mere practical compromises," he is inconsistent with the importance which he ascribes to them as "working ideas." As a matter of fact according to his conception every finite experience, i. e. every experience which it is possible for us to have, is a working idea. And, according to Bradley's own principles, that which he calls "the Absolute" must be present in all our working ideas, like Spinoza's Substance in all the Attributes and in all the Modes.

2. In France Alfred Fouillée (born 1838, professor at Bordeaux, afterwards in Paris, now (1906) living in southern France[3]) assumes a position which may justly be described as idealism on a realistic basis. Greek philosophy, especially Plato, forms the subject-matter of his earliest studies; later on he regarded it his peculiar task "to bring back the ideas of Plato from heaven to earth and thus reconcile idealism and naturalism." His fundamental principle is the original and natural relation of thought and motion (idée-force). His precursor in this view is Taine, whose De l'intelligence (1870) attaches great importance to the motive tendencies primarily combined with all ideas which only assume the purely theoretical character of ideas through increasing mental development. Fouillée constructs his concept of idée-force from a physiologico-psychological fact, which he then in turn discovers by the method of analogy in the lower stages of nature. His chief work, La psychologie des idées-forces (1893), is a classic in voluntaristic psychology. Psychical phenomena always consist of the manifestations of an impulse or desire (appetition) which is attended by pleasure or pain according as it is fostered or inhibited. Discernment and preference are primarily one and the same thing, as e. g. the discernment of an animal between the edible and the non-edible. Sensation is originally limited to such things as are of practical importance in the struggle for existence; it is the will (in the broadest sense of the term) that impels the sensations to new differentiations. And just as in the case of sensation so it is with knowledge in general. Every thought, every idea describes a more or less conscious and definite tendency of life.

Fouillée regards the application of the analogy of mental life, the most immediate experience which we possess, as furnishing the possibility of a metaphysics. Our knowledge of mental life however does not rest upon psychology alone, but likewise upon sociology; the individual and the social, liberty and solidarity are inseparable. This theory which Fouillée applied to the sphere of sociology and ethics (La science sociale contemporaine, 1880; Critique des systemes de morale contemporaine, 1883) likewise acquires cosmological significance for him. The universe must be conceived as a grand total, a community of striving energies. But in this sphere we cannot attain anything more than a hypothetical scheme, for the synthesis which forms the completion of our knowledge cannot be carried out positively—as in the cases of the finite synthesis of the special departments of phenomena. But this nevertheless furnishes us a criterion by which to judge the various metaphysical systems: such a system is complete in proportion as both multiplicity as well as unity, analysis as well as synthesis, receive due recognition (L'avenir de la Metaphysique, 1889).

  1. Died 1920
  2. Died 1924
  3. Died 1912