On the Will in Nature/Physiology of Plants


The corroborations I am now about to bring forward of the phenomenon of the will in plants, proceed chiefly from French sources, from a nation whose tendencies are decidedly empirical and which is reluctant to go a step beyond what is immediately given. The informant moreover is Cuvier, whose rigid adherence to the purely empirical gave rise to the famous dispute between him and Geoffroy de St. Hilaire. So we must not be astonished if the language we meet with here is less decided than in the preceding German corroborations and if we find each concession made with cautious reserve.

In his Histoire des Progrès des Sciences Naturelles depuis 1789 jusqu' à ce jour,[1] Cuvier says: "Plants have certain apparently spontaneous movements, which they show under certain circumstances and which at times so closely resemble those of animals, that a sort of feeling and will might almost be attributed to plants on this account, especially by those who think they can perceive something of the same kind in the movements of the inward parts of animals. Thus the tops of trees always have a vertical tendency, excepting when they incline towards the light. Their roots seek out good earth and moisture and, in order to attain these, deviate from the straight course. Yet these different tendencies can not be explained by the influence of external causes, THE WILL IN NATURE.

unless we also assume the existence of an inner natural disposition, susceptible of being roused, which differs from the mere mechanical force in inorganic bodies… Decandolle made some remarkable experiments that proved to him the existence of a sort of habit in plants which may be overcome by artificial light, but only after a certain time. Plants that had been shut up in a cellar which was continually lit by lamps, did not on this account leave off closing in the evening and opening again in the morning for several days. And there are other habits besides which plants are able to adopt and to abandon. Flowers that habitually close in wet weather, finish by remaining open if the wet weather lasts too long. When M. Desfontaines took a sensitive plant with him in his carriage, the jolting movement at first caused it to contract, but at last it expanded again as when in complete repose. Therefore even in these cases, light, moisture, &c., &c., only act in virtue of an inner disposition, which may be neutralized or modified by the continuation of that very activity itself; and the vital energy of plants, like that of animals, is subject to fatigue and exhaustion. The hedysarum gyrans is singularly characterized by the movements of its leaves which continue day and night without needing any sort of stimulus. Surely, if any phenomenon can cause illusion and remind us of the voluntary movements of animals, it is this. Broussonet, Silvestre, Cels and Hallé have fully described it, and have shown that the plant's action depends entirely upon its own healthy condition."

Again, in the third volume of the same work, p. 166 (1828), Cuvier says: "M. Dutrochet adds some physiological considerations to which his own experiments had led him, and which in his opinion prove that the movements of plants are spontaneous, i.e. that they depend upon an inner principle which immediately receives the influence of outer agencies. As he is however reluctant to admit that plants


have feeling, he makes use of the word nervimotilité. Here I must observe, that when we come to examine it closely, what we think to ourselves in the conception of spontaneity, is in the end always the same thing as manifestation of will, with which spontaneity would therefore be simply synonymous. The only difference between them consists in the conception of spontaneity being derived from outer perception, while that of manifestation of will is drawn from our own consciousness. I find a remarkable instance of the impetuous violence of this spontaneity, even in plants, in the following communication contained in the Cheltenham Examiner: 1 "Last Thursday four enormous mushrooms performed a heroic feat of a new kind, in one of our most crowded streets, by lifting up a huge block of stone in their strenuous effort to make their way into the visible world."

In the Mémoire de l'Académie des Sciences de l'année 1821, Cuvier says 2 : "For centuries botanists have been searching for the reason why in a seed which is germinating the root invariably grows downwards, while the stalk as invariably grows upwards, no matter what be the position in which the seed is placed. M. Dutrochet put some seeds into holes bored in the bottom of a vessel filled with damp mould, which he hung up to a beam in his room. Now, in this case, the stem might have been expected to grow downwards. Not at all: the roots found their way to the air below, and the stems were prolonged so as to traverse the damp mould until they reached its upper surface. According to M. Dutrochet, the direction in which plants grow, is determined by an inner principle and not at all by the attraction of the bodies towards which they direct themselves. A mistletoe seed that was fastened to the point of a perfectly moveable needle fixed

1 Repeated in the Times of June 2nd, 1841.

2 Vol. v. p. 171. Paris, 1826.


on a peg, with a small plank placed near it, was induced to germinate. It soon began to send out shoots towards the plank, which it reached in five days without having communicated the slightest movement to the needle. The stems of onions and leeks with their bulbs, deposited in dark places, grow upwards, although more slowly than in light ones: they grow upwards even if placed in water: a fact which suffices to prove that neither light nor moisture determines the direction of their growth." Still C. H. Schultz asserts l that he made seeds germinate in a dark box with holes bored in the bottom, and succeeded in inducing the plants to grow upside down, by means of a mirror fastened to the box, which reflected the sun light.

In the Dictionnaire des Sciences Naturelles" (article "Animal") we find: "If, on the one hand, animals show avidity in their search after nourishment as well as power of discrimination in the selection of it, roots of plants may, on the other hand, be observed to direct themselves towards the side where the soil contains most nourishment, nay, even to seek out the smallest crevices in rocks which may contain any food. If we twist a bough so as to make the upper surface of its leaves the under one, these leaves even will twist their stems in order to regain the position best suited for the exercise of their functions (i.e. so as to have the smooth side uppermost). Is it quite certain that this takes place unconsciously ?"

F. J. Meyen has devoted a chapter, entitled "Of the movements and sensations of plants," to a full investigation of the subject now before us. In this he says 2 : "Not unfrequently potatoes, stored in deep, dark cellars,

1 C. H. Schultz, Sur la Circulation dans les Plantes, an Académie des Sciences prize-essay, 1839.

8 F. J. F. Meyen, Neues System der Pflanzenphysiologie (1839), vol. iii, p. 585.


may be observed towards summer to shoot forth stems which invariably grow in the direction of the chinks through which the light comes into the cellar, and to continue thus growing until they at last reach the aperture which receives the light directly. In such cases potato-stalks have been known to reach a length of twenty feet; whereas under ordinary circumstances, even such as are most favourable to the growth of the potato, the stalk is seldom longer than from three to four feet. It is interesting to watch closely the course taken by a potato-stalk thus growing in darkness, in its endeavours to reach the light. It tries to do so by the shortest road, but not being firm enough to grow straight across through the air without support, it lets itself drop on to the floor, and thus creeps along the ground till it reaches the nearest wall, up which it then climbs." Even this botanist too is led by his facts to the following assertion (p. 576): "On observing the freedom of movement of oscillatoria and other inferior plants, we may perhaps have no alternative but to attribute a species of will to these beings."

Creepers bear distinct evidence as to manifestation of will in plants; for, when they find no support near enough for their tendrils to cling to, they invariably direct their growth towards the shadiest place, or even towards a piece of dark-coloured paper, wherever it may be placed; whereas they avoid glass, on account of its glitter. In the Philosophical Transactions of 1812, Thomas Andrew Knight relates some very pleasing experiments on this subject (especially with ampelopsis quinquefolia,) 1 although he strives hard to explain the matter mechanically, and will not admit that it is a manifestation of will. I appeal to his experiments, not to the conclusions he draws from them. A good test might be, to plant several free creepers in a

1 These have been translated for the Bibliothèque Britannique, Section des Sciences et Arts, vol. 52


circle round a tree-trunk and to observe whether they all crept towards the trunk centripetally. On the 6th Nov. 1843, Dutrochet read a treatise on this subject in the Académie des Sciences called "Sur les Mouvements Révolutifs spontanés chez les Végétaux," which, notwithstanding its great length, is well worth reading, and is published among the Compte rendu des Séances de l'Académie des Sciences for Nov. 1843. The result is, that in pisum sativum (green pea), in bryonia alba (wild bryony) and in cucumis sativus (cucumber) the stems of those leaves which bear the tendrils, describe a very slow circular movement in the air, the time in which they complete an ellipsis varying from one to three hours according to temperature. By this movement they seek at random for solid bodies round which, when found, they twine their tendrils; these then support the plant, it being unable to stand by itself without help. That is, they do the same thing as the eyeless caterpillar, which when seeking a leaf describes circles in the air with the upper part of its body. Dutrochet contributes a good deal of information too concerning other movements in plants in this treatise: for instance, that stylidium graminifolium in New Holland, has a column in the middle of its corolla which bears the anthers and stigma and alternately folds up and unfolds again. What Treviranus adduces is to the same effect: 1 "In parnassia palustris and in ruta graveolens, the stamina incline one after the other, in saxifraga tridactylites in pairs, towards the stigma, and erect themselves again in the same order." Shortly before however, we read in Treviranus with reference to this subject: "Of all apparently voluntary movements of plants, the direction of their boughs and of the upper surface of their leaves towards the light and towards moist heat, and the twining

1 Treviranus, Die Erscheinungen und Gesetze des Organischen Lebens (Phenomena and Laws of Organic Life), vol. i. p. 173.


movements of creepers round their supports, are the most universal. In this last phenomenon especially there is something which resembles animal movements. While growing, creepers, it is true, if left to themselves, describe circles with their tips and by this means reach an object near at hand. But it is no merely mechanical cause that induces them to adapt their growth to the form of the object they have thus reached. The cuscuta does not twine round every kind of support: for instance, limbs of animals, dead vegetable matter, metals and inorganic substances are not used for this purpose, but only living plants, and not even all kinds not mosses, for instance only those from which it can extract nourishment by its papillae; and these attract it from a considerable distance." 1 The following special observation, communicated to the Farmer's Magazine, and reproduced by the Times (13th July 1848) under the title "Vegetable Instinct," is however still more to the point: "If a basin of water be placed within six inches of a young pumpkin-stalk, or of a stem of the large garden pea, no matter on what side, the stalk will approach the basin during the night and it will be found next morning with one of its leaves floating on the water. This experiment may be renewed every night till the plant begins to fructify. Even if its position be

1 Brandis, On Life and Polarity, 1836, p. 88, says: "The roots of rock-plants seek nourishing mould in the most delicate crevices of rocks. These roots cling to a nourishing bone in dense clusters. I saw a root whose growth was intercepted by the sole of an old shoe: it divided itself into as many fibres as the shoe-sole had holes those by which it had been stitched together but as soon as these fibres had overcome the obstruction apd grown through the holes, they united again to a common stem." And p. 87: "If Sprengel's observations are confirmed, even mediate relations are perceived (by plants) in order to obtain this end (fructification): that is to say, the anthers of the nigella, bend down in order to put the pollen on the bees backs, and the pistils bend in like manner to receive it from the bees. [Add. to 3rd ed.]


changed every day. A stick fixed upright within six inches of a young convolvulus is sure to be found by the plant. If, after having wound itself for a certain distance round the stick, it is unwound and wound round again in the opposite direction, it will return to its original position or lose its life in the endeavour to do so. Nevertheless, if two such plants grow close to one another without having any stick near enough for them to cling to it, one of them will change the direction of its winding and they will twine round each other. Duhamel placed some Italian beans in a cylinder filled with moist earth; after a little while they began to germinate and naturally sent their plumula upwards in the direction of the light and their radicula downwards into the mould. After a few days the cylinder was turned round to the extent of a quarter of its circumference and the same process was repeated until it had been turned completely round. The beans were then removed from the earth, when it was found that both plumula and radicula had twisted at each turn that had been given, in order to adapt them selves to it, the one endeavouring to rise perpendicularly, the other to descend, so that they had formed a complete spiral. Yet, notwithstanding this natural tendency to descend, when the soil below is too dry, roots will grow upwards in order to reach any moist substance which may be lying higher than themselves."

In Froriep's Memoranda for 1833 (No. 832) there is a short article upon the locomotivity of plants: in poor soil, where good mould lies near at hand, many plants will send out a shoot into the good mould; after a time the original plant then withers, but the offshoot prospers and itself becomes the plant. By means of this process, a plant has been known to climb down from a wall.

In the same periodical (1835, No. 981) is to be found a communication from Professor Daubeny, of Oxford (taken


from the Edinburgh New Philosophical Journal, April-July, 1835), in which he shows with certainty, by means of new and very careful experiments, that roots of plants have, at any rate to a certain degree, the power to make choice from those substances in the soil which present themselves to their surface. 1

1 In this connection I may mention an analysis of an entirely different kind, given by the French Academician Babinet in an article in which he treats of the seasons on the planets. It is contained in the Number, of the 15th January, 1856, of the Revue des Deux Mondes, and I will give the chief substance of it here in translation. The object of it is to refer to its direct cause the well-known fact, that cereals only thrive in temperate climates. "If grain did not necessarily perish in winter, if it were perennial, it would not bear ears, and there would be no harvest. In the hotter portions of Africa, Asia and America, where no winter kills the grain, these plants grow like grass with us: they multiply by means of shoots, remain always green, and neither form ears nor run to seed. In cold climates, on the contrary, the organism of these plants seems by some inconceivable miracle to feel, as it were by anticipation, the necessity of passing through the seed-phase in order to escape dying off in the winter season (L' organisme de la plante, par un inconcevable miracle, semble pressentir la nécessité de passer par l'état de graine, pour ne pas périr complètement pendant la saison rigoureuse). In a similar way, districts which have a "droughty season," that is to say a season in which all plants are parched up with drought, tropical countries, for instance Jamaica, produce grain because there the plant, moved by the same organic presentiment (par le même pressentiment organique), in order to multiply, hastens to bear seed at the approach of the season in which it would have to dry up." In the fact which this author describes as an inconceivable miracle, we recognise a manifestation of the plant's will in increased potency, since here it appears as the will of the species, and makes preparations for the future in a similar way to animal instinct, without being guided by knowledge of that future in doing so. Here we see plants in warmer climates dispensing with a complicated process to which a cold climate alone had obliged them. In similar instances animals do precisely the same thing, especially bees. Leroy in his admirable work Lettres Philosophiques sur l'Intelligence des Animaux " (3rd letter, p. 231) relates, that some bees which had been taken to South America continued at first to gather honey as usual and to build their cells just as when they were at home; but that when they gradually became aware that plants blossom there all the year round, they left off working. The animal world supplies a fact analogous to the above mentioned change in the mode of multiplying in cereals. This is the abnormal mode of propagation for which the aphides [plant lice] have long been noted. The female aphide, as is well known, propagates for 10-12 generations without any pairing with the male, and by a variety of the ovoviviparous process. This goes on all summer; but in autumn the males appear, impregnation takes place, and eggs are laid as winter quarters for the whole species, since it is only in this shape that it is able to outlive the winter. [Add. to 3rd ed.]


Finally I will not omit to observe, that even so early an authority as Plato 1 had attributed desires, Επιδυμιας, i.e. will, to plants. In my chief work, 2 however, I have entered into the doctrines of the Ancients on this point, and the chapter there which treats of this subject may on the whole serve to complete the present one.

The reluctance and reserve with which we see the authors here quoted make up their minds to acknowledge the will, which nevertheless undoubtedly manifests itself in plants, comes from their being still hampered by the old opinion, that consciousness is a requisite and condition of the will: now it is evident that plants have no consciousness. The thought never entered into the heads of these naturalists, that the will might be the prius [earlier] and therefore independent of the intellect, with which, as the posterius [later], consciousness first makes its appearance. As for knowledge or representation, plants have something merely analogous to it, a mere substitute for it; whereas they really have the will itself quite directly: for, as the thing–in–itself, it is the substratum of their phenomenal being as well as of every other. Taking a realistic view, starting accordingly from the objective, the matter might even be stated as follows: That which lives and moves in plant-nature and in the animal organism,

1 Plato, Timaeus, p. 403. Biponti edition

2 The World as Will and Representation, vol. ii. chap. 23.


when it has gradually enhanced itself in the scale of beings sufficiently for the light of knowledge to fall directly upon it, presents itself in this newly arising consciousness as will, and is here more immediately, consequently better, known than anywhere else. This knowledge therefore must supply the key for the comprehension of all that is lower in the scale. For in this knowledge the thing–in– itself is no longer veiled by any other form than that of the most immediate apprehension. It is this immediate apprehension of one's own volition which has been called the inner sense. In itself the will is without apprehension, and remains so in the inorganic and vegetable kingdoms. Just as the world would remain in darkness, in spite of the sun, if there were no bodies to reflect its light; or as the mere vibration of a string can never become a sound without air or even without some sort of sounding-board: so likewise does the will first become conscious of itself when knowledge is added to it. Knowledge is, as it were, the sounding-board of the will, and consciousness the tone it produces. This becoming conscious of itself on the part of the will, was attributed to a supposed inner sense, because it is the first and most direct knowledge we have. The various emotions of our own will can alone be the object of this inner sense; for the process of representation itself cannot over again be perceived, but, at the very utmost, only be once more brought to consciousness in rational reflection, that second power of representing: that is, in abstracto. Therefore also, simple representation (intuition) is to thinking proper that is, to knowing by means of abstract conceptions, what willing in itself is to becoming aware of that willing, i.e. to consciousness. For this reason, a perfectly clear and distinct consciousness, not only of our own existence but also of the existence of others, only arises with the advent of Reason (the faculty for conceptions), which raises Man as far above the brute,


as the merely intuitive faculty of representation raises the brute above the plant. Now beings which, like plants, have no faculty for representation, are called unconscious, and we conceive this condition as only slightly differing from non-existence; since the only existence such beings have, is in the consciousness of others, as the representation of those others. They are nevertheless not wanting in what is primary in existence, the will, but only in what is secondary; still, what is primary, and this is after all the existence of the thing–in–itself, appears to us, without that secondary element, to pass over into nullity. We are unable directly and clearly to distinguish unconscious existence from non-existence, although we have our own experience of it in deep sleep.

Bearing in mind, according to the contents of the last chapter, that the faculty of knowing, like every other organ, has only arisen for the purpose of self-preservation, and that it therefore stands in a precise relation, admitting of countless gradations, to the requirements of each animal species; we shall understand that plants, having so very much fewer requirements than animals, no longer need any knowledge at all. On this account precisely, as I have often said, knowledge is the true characteristic which denotes the limits of animality, because of the movement induced by motives which it conditions. Where animal life ceases, there knowledge proper, with whose essence our own experience has made us familiar, disappears; and henceforth analogy is our only way of making that which mediates between the influence of the outer world and the movements of beings intelligible to us. The will, on the other hand, which we have recognised as being the basis and kernel of every existing thing, remains one and the same at all times and in all places. Now, in the lower degree occupied by plant-life and by the vegetative life of animal organisms, it is the stimulus which takes the place


of knowledge as a means of determining the individual manifestations of this omnipresent will and as a mediator between the outer world and the changes of such a being; finally, in inorganic Nature, it is physical agency in general; and when, as here, observation takes place from a higher to a lower degree, both stimulus and physical agency present themselves as substitutes for knowledge, therefore as mere analogues to it. Plants cannot properly be said to perceive light and the sun; yet we see them sensitive in various ways to the presence or absence of both. We see them incline and turn towards the light; and though this movement no doubt generally coincides with their growth, just as the moon's rotation on its axis coincides with its movement round the earth, it nevertheless exists, as well as that of the moon, and the direction of that growth is determined and systematically modified by light, just as an action is determined by a motive, and as the direction of the growth of creeping and clinging plants is determined by the shape and position of the supports they may chance to find. Thus because plants on the whole still have wants, though not such wants as demand the luxury of a sensorium and an intellect, some thing analogous has to take the place of these, in order to enable the will to lay hold of, if not to seek out, the satisfactions which offer themselves to it. Now, this analogous substitute is susceptibility for stimuli, and I would express the difference between knowledge and this susceptibility as follows: in knowledge, the motive which presents itself as representation and the act of volition which follows from it, remain distinctly separate one from the other, this separation moreover being the more distinct, the greater the perfection of the intellect; whereas, in mere susceptibility for stimuli, the feeling of the stimulus can no longer be distinguished from the volition it occasions, and they coalesce. In inorganic nature finally, even susceptibility


for stimuli, the analogy of which to knowledge is unmistakable, ceases, but the diversity of reaction of each body upon divers kinds of action remains; now, when the matter is considered, as we are doing, in the descending scale, this reaction still presents itself, even here, as a substitute for knowledge. If a body reacts differently, it must have been acted upon differently and that action must have roused a different sensation in it, which with all its dullness has nevertheless a distant analogy to knowledge. Thus when water that is shut up finds an outlet of which it eagerly avails itself, rushing vehemently in that direction, it certainly does not recognise that outlet any more than the acid perceives the alkali approaching it which will induce it to abandon its combination with a metal, or than the strip of paper perceives the amber which attracts it after being rubbed; yet we cannot help admitting that what brings about such sudden changes in all these bodies, bears a certain resemblance to that which takes place within us, when an unexpected motive presents itself. In former times I have availed myself of such considerations as these in order to point out the will in all things; I now employ them to indicate the sphere to which knowledge presents itself as belonging, when considered, not as is usual from the inside, but realistically, from a standpoint outside itself, as if it were something foreign: that is, when we gain the objective point of view for it, which is so extremely important in order to complete the subjective one. 1 We find that knowledge then presents itself as the mediator of motives, i.e. of the action of causality upon beings endowed with intellect in other words, as that which receives the changes from outside upon which those in the inside must follow, as that which acts as mediator between both. Now upon this narrow line hovers the world as

1 Compare The World as Will and Representation, vol. ii, chap. 22: "Objective View of the Intellect."


representation that is to say, the whole corporeal world, stretched out in Space and Time, which as such can never exist anywhere but in the brain any more than dreams, which, as long as they last, exist in the same way. What the intellect does for animals and for man, as the mediator of motives, susceptibility for stimuli does for plants, and susceptibility for every sort of cause for in organic bodies: and strictly speaking, all this differs merely in degree. For, exclusively as a consequence of this susceptibility to outward impressions having enhanced itself in animals proportionately to their requirements till it has reached the point where a nervous system and a brain become necessary, does consciousness arise as a function of that brain, and in it the objective world, whose forms (Time, Space, Causality) are the way in which that function is performed. Therefore we find the intellect originally laid out entirely with a view to subjectivity, destined merely to serve the purposes of the will, consequently as something quite secondary and subordinate; nay, in a sense, as something which appears only per accidens; as a condition of the action of mere motives, instead of stimuli, which has become necessary in the higher degree of animal existence. The image of the world in Space and Time, which thus arises, is only the map 1 on which the motives present themselves as ends. It also conditions the spatial and causal connection in which the objects perceived stand to one another; nevertheless it is only the mediating link between the motive and the act of volition. Now, to take such an image as this of the world, arising in this manner, accidentally, in the intellect, i.e. in the cerebral function of animal beings, through the means to their ends being represented and the path of these ephemera on their planet being thus illumined to take this image, we say, this mere cerebral phenomenon, for the true, ultimate essence of things (thing–in–itself),

1 Plan.


to take the concatenation of its parts for the absolute order of the Universe (relations between things–in–themselves), and to assume all this to exist even independently of the brain, would indeed be a leap! Here in fact, an assumption such as this must appear to us as the height of rashness and presumption; yet it is the foundation upon which all the systems of pre-Kantian dogmatism have been built up; for it is tacitly pre-supposed in all their Ontology, Cosmology and Theology, as well as in the aeternae veritates [eternal truths] to which they appeal. But that leap had always been made tacitly and unconsciously, and it is precisely Kant's immortal achievement, to have brought it to our consciousness.

By our present realistic way of considering the matter therefore, we unexpectedly gain the objective stand-point for Kant's great discoveries; and, by the road of empirico-physiological contemplation, we arrive at the point whence his transcendental-critical view starts. For Kant's view takes the subjective for its standpoint and considers consciousness as given. But from consciousness itself and its law and order, given a priori, that view arrives at the conclusion, that all which appears in that consciousness can be nothing more than mere phenomenon. From our realistic, exterior standpoint, on the contrary, which assumes the objective creatures that exist in Nature to be absolutely given, we see what the intellect is, as to its aim and origin, and to which class of phenomena it belongs, and we recognise (so far a priori) that it must be limited to mere phenomena. We see too, that what presents itself in the intellect can at all times only be conditioned chiefly subjectively, that is, can, together with the order of the nexus of its parts, only be a mundus phenomenon, which is likewise subjectively conditioned; but that it can never be a knowledge of things as they may be in themselves, or as they may be connected in themselves. For, in the nexus of Nature, we have found the faculty of knowing as a conditioned faculty,


whose assertions, precisely on that account, cannot claim unconditioned validity. To anyone who has studied and understood the Critique of Pure Reason to which our standpoint is essentially foreign it must nevertheless still appear as if Nature had intended the intellect for a puzzle-glass to mislead us and were playing at hide-and-seek with us. But by our realistic objective road, i.e. by starting from the objective world as given, we have now come to the very same result at which Kant had arrived by the idealistic, subjective road, i.e. by examining the intellect itself and the way in which it constitutes consciousness. We now see that the world as representation hovers on the narrow line between the external cause (motive) and the effect evoked (act of the will), in beings having knowledge (animals), in which beings for the first time there occurs a distinct separation between motive and voluntary act. Ita res accendent lumina rebus ["Thus one thing throws light on another," On the nature of things, Lucretius, I, 1109]. It is only when it is reached by two quite opposite roads, that the great result attained by Kant is distinctly seen; and when light is thus thrown upon it from both sides, his whole meaning be comes clear. Our objective standpoint is realistic and therefore conditioned, so far as, in taking for granted the existence of beings in Nature, it abstracts from the fact that their objective existence postulates an intellect, which contains them as its representation; but Kant's subjective and idealistic standpoint is likewise conditioned, inasmuch as he starts from the intelligence, which itself, however, presupposes Nature, in consequence of whose development as far as animal life that intelligence is for the first time enabled to make its appearance. Keeping steadily to this realistic, objective standpoint of ours, we may also define Kant's theory as follows: After Locke, in order to know things–in–themselves, had abstracted the share of sensuous functions, called by him secondary qualities, from things as they appear, Kant with infinitely greater depth


deducted from them the incomparably larger share of the cerebral function, which includes precisely what Locke calls primary qualities. But all I have done here has been to show why all this must necessarily be as it is, by indicating the place occupied by the intellect in the nexus of Nature, when we start realistically from the objective as given, but, in doing so, take the only thing of which we are quite directly conscious, the will that true που στω [site] of Metaphysics, for our support, as being what is primarily real, everything else being merely its phenomenon. What now follows serves to complete this.

I have mentioned already, that where knowledge takes place, the motive which appears as representation and the act of volition resulting from it, remain the more clearly separated one from the other, the more perfect the intellect; that is, the higher we ascend in the scale of beings. This calls for fuller explanation. As long as the will's activity is roused by stimuli alone, and no representation as yet takes place, that is, in plants there is no separation at all between the receiving of impressions and the being determined by them. In the lowest order of animal in telligence, such as we find it in radiaria radiolarians, acalepha jellyfish, acephala mussels, shellfish, &c., the difference is still small; a feeling of hunger, a watchfulness roused by this, an apprehending and snapping at their prey, still constitute the whole content of their consciousness; nevertheless this is the first twilight of the dawning world as representation, the background of which, that is to say, everything excepting the motive which acts each time still remains shrouded in impenetrable darkness. Here moreover the organs of the senses are correspondingly imperfect and incomplete, having exceedingly few data for perception to bring to an understanding yet in embryo. Nevertheless wherever there is sensibility, it is always accompanied by understanding, i.e. with the faculty for referring effects experienced to


external causes; without this, sensibility would be superfluous and a mere source of aimless suffering. The higher we ascend in the scale of animals, the greater number and perfection of the senses we find, till at last we have all five; these are found in a small number of invertebrate animals, but they only become universal in the vertebrata. The brain and its function, the understanding, develop proportionately, and the object now gradually presents itself more and more distinctly and completely and even already in connection with other objects; because the service of the will requires apprehension of the mutual relations of objects. By this the world of representation acquires some extent and background. Still that apprehension never goes beyond what is required for the will's service: the apprehending and the being roused to reaction by what is apprehended, are not clearly held asunder: the object is only perceived in as much as it is a motive. Even the more sagacious animals only see in objects what concerns themselves, what has reference to their will or, at the utmost, what may have reference to it in future: of this last we have an instance in cats, who take pains to acquire an accurate knowledge of localities, and in foxes, who endeavour to find hiding-places for their future prey. But they are insensible towards everything else; no animal has perhaps ever yet seen the starry sky: my dog started in terror when for the first time he accidentally caught sight of the sun. A first faint sign of a disinterested perception of their surroundings may at times be observed in the most intelligent animals, especially when they have been trained by taming. Dogs go so far as to stare at things; we may often see them sit down at the window and attentively watch all that passes. Monkeys look about them at times, as if trying to make up their mind about their surroundings. It is in Man that the separation between motive and action, between representation


and will, first becomes quite distinct. But this does not immediately put an end to the subservience of the intellect to the will. Ordinary human beings after all only comprehend quite clearly that which, in some way or other, refers directly or indirectly to their own selves (has an interest for them); with respect to everything else, their understanding continues to be unconquerably inert; the rest therefore remains in the back-ground and does not come into consciousness under the radiant light of complete distinctness. Philosophical astonishment and artistic emotion occasioned by the contemplation of phenomena remain eternally foreign to them, whatever they may do; for at the bottom, everything appears to them to be a matter of course. Complete liberation and separation of the intellect from the will and its bondage is the prerogative of genius, as I have fully shown in the aesthetic part of my chief work. Genius is objectivity. The pure objectivity and distinctness with which things present themselves in [intuitive] perception, that fundamental and most substantial source of knowledge, actually stands every moment in inverse proportion to the interest which the will has in those things; and knowing without willing is the condition, not to say the essence, of all gifts of aesthetic intelligence. Why does an ordinary artist produce so bad a painting of yonder landscape, notwithstanding all the pains he has taken ? Because he sees it so. And why does he see so little beauty in it ? Because his intellect has not freed itself sufficiently from his will. The degrees of this separation give rise to great intellectual distinctions between men; for the more knowledge has freed itself from the will, the purer, consequently the more objective and correct, it is; just as that fruit is best, which has no after-taste of the soil on which it has grown.

This relation, as important as it is interesting, deserves surely to be made still clearer by a retrospective view of the


whole scale of beings, and by recalling the gradual transition from absolute subjectivity to the highest degrees of objectivity in the intellect. Inorganic Nature namely, is absolutely subjective, no trace whatever of consciousness of an outer world being found in it. Stones, boulders, ice-blocks, even when they fall upon one another, or knock or rub against one another, have no consciousness of each other and of an outer world. Still even these are susceptible to external influence, which causes their position and movement to change and may therefore be considered as a first step towards consciousness. Now, although plants also have no consciousness of the outer world, and although the mere analogue of a consciousness which exists in them must, on the contrary, be conceived as a dull self -enjoyment; yet we see that they all seek light, and that many of them turn their flowers or leaves daily towards the sun, while creepers find their way to supports with which they are not in contact; and finally we see individual kinds of plants show even a sort of irritability. Unquestionably therefore, there is a connection and relation between their movements and surroundings, even those with which they are not in immediate contact; and this connection we must accordingly recognise as a faint analogue to perception. With animal life first appears decided perception, that is, consciousness of other things, as opposed to that clear consciousness of ourselves to which that consciousness of other things first gives rise. This constitutes precisely the true character of animal-nature, as opposed to plant-nature. In the lowest animals, consciousness of the outer world is very limited and dim: each increasing degree of understanding extends it and makes it clearer, and this gradual increase of the understanding again adapts itself to the gradually increasing requirements of the animal, and thus the process continues through the whole long ascend ing scale of the animal series up to Man, in whom consciousness


of the outer world reaches its acme, and in whom the world accordingly presents itself more distinctly and completely than in any other being. Still, even here, there are innummerable degrees in the clearness of consciousness, from the dullest blockhead to genius. Even in normal heads there still remains a considerable tinge of subjectivity in their objective perception of external objects, knowledge still bearing throughout the character of existing merely for the ends of the will. The more eminent the head, the less prominent is this character, and the more purely objective does the representation of the outer world become; till in genius finally it attains completely objectivity, by which the Platonic ideas detach themselves from the individual things, because the mind which comprehends them enhances itself to the pure subject of knowledge. Now, as perception is the basis of all knowledge, all thinking and all insight must be influenced by this fundamental difference in the quality of it, from which arises that complete difference between the ordinary and the superior mind in their whole way of viewing things, which may be noticed on all occasions. From this also proceeds the dull gravity, nearly resembling that of animals, which characterizes common-place heads whose knowledge is acquired solely for the benefit of the will, as opposed to the constant play of exuberant intellect which brightens the consciousness of the superior mind. The consideration of the two extremes in the great scale which we have here exhibited, seems to have given rise to the German hyperbolical expression "Klotz," as applied to human beings, and to the English "blockhead."

But another different consequence of the clear separation of the will from the intellect therefore of the motive from the action, which first appears in the human race, is the deceptive illusion of freedom in our individual actions. Where, as in inorganic nature, causes, or, as in


the vegetable kingdom, stimuli, call forth, the effect, the causal connection is so simple, that there is not even the slightest semblance of freedom. But already in animal life, where that which till then had manifested itself as cause or as stimulus, now appears as a motive and a new world, that of representation, consequently presents itself, and cause and effect lie in different spheres the causal connection between both, and with it the necessity, are less evident than they were in plants and in inorganic Nature. Nevertheless they are still unmistakable in animals, whose merely intuitive representation stands midway between organic functions induced by stimuli and the deliberate acts of Man. The animal's actions infallibly follow as soon as the perceptible motive is present, unless counteracted by some equally perceptible counter-motive or by training; yet here representation is already distinct from the act of volition and comes separately into consciousness. But in Man whose representation has enhanced itself even to abstract conception and who now derives motives and counter-motives for his actions from a whole invisible thought-world which he carries about with him in his brain and which makes him independent of presence and of perceptible surroundings this connection no longer exists at all for observation from outside, and even for inward observation it is only knowable through abstract and mature reflection. For these abstract motives, when observed from outside, give an impress of deliberation to all his movements, by which they acquire a semblance of independence that manifestly distinguishes them from those of animals, yet which after all only bears evidence to the fact, that Man is actuated by a class of representations in which animals do not share. Then again, in self-consciousness, the act of volition is known to us in the most immediate way, but the motive in most cases very indirectly, being often even intentionally veiled, out of consideration for


our self-knowledge. This process therefore, in coincidence with the consciousness of that true freedom which belongs to the will, as thing in itself outside phenomenon, produces the deceptive illusion that even the single act of volition is unconditioned and free: that is, without a reason; whereas, when the character is given and the motive recognised, every act of volition really follows with the same strict necessity as the changes of which mechanics teach us the laws, and, to use Kant's words, were character and motive exactly known, might be calculated with precisely the same certainty as an eclipse of the moon; or again, to place a very heterogeneous authority by the side of Kant, as Dante says, who is older than Buridan:

"Intra duo cibi distanti e moventi D'un modo, prima si morra di fame, Che liber' uomo l'un recasse a' denti." 1

[The Divine Comedy, "Paradiso," iv. I. 1]

1 Between two kinds of food, both equally Remote and tempting, first a man might die Of hunger, ere he one could freely choose.

  1. Vol. i. p. 245. 1826.