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MATERIALISM


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MATERIALISM


merely a thought-product; this the Materialists gladly admit, but they call it, in plainer terms, a pure fabri- cation.

The German Idealists, Fichte, Hegel, and Schelling, seriously espoused the Phenomenalism of Kant, de- claring that matter, and, in fact, the whole universe, is a subjective product. Thereby indeed Materialism is entirely overcome, but the Kantian method of refuta- tion is reduced to absurdity. The reaction against this extravagant Spiritualism was inevitable, and it resulted by a sort of necessary consequence in the op- posite extreme of outspoken Materialism. Repelled by these fantastic views, so contrary to all reality, men turned their whole energy to the investigation of nature. The extraordinary success achieved in this domain led many investigators to overestimate the im- portance of matter, its forces, and its laws, with which they believed they could explain even the spiritual. The chief representatives of Materialism as a system daring this period are Biichner (1824-99), the author of " Kraft und Stoff "; K. Vogt (1817-95), who held tliat thought is "secreted " by the brain, as gall by the liver and urine by the kidneys; Czolbe (1817-73); Moleschott, to whom his Materialism brought politi- cal fame. Born on 9 August, 1822, at Herzogenbusch, North Brabant, he studied medicine, natural science, and the philosophy of Hegel at Heidelberg from 1842. After some years of medical practice in Utrecht, he qualified as instructor in physiology and anthropology at the University of Heidelberg. His writings, espe- cially his "Kreislauf des Lebens" (1852), created a great sensation . On account of the gross materialism, which he displayed both in his works and his lectures, he received a warning from the academic senate by command of the Goverimient, wliereupon he accepted in 1854 a call to the newly founded University of Zurich. In 1861 Cavom-, the Italian premier, granted him a chair at Tm-in, whence fifteen years later he was called to the Sapienza in Rome, which oweil its foun- dation to the popes. Here death suddenly overtook him in 1893, and, just as he had had burnt the bodies of his wife and daughter who had committed suicide, he also appointed in his will that his own body should be reduced to ashes. The most radical rejection of everything ideal is contained in the revised work "Der Einzige und sein Eigentum" (1845; 3rd ed., 1893) of Max Stirner, which rejects everything tran- scending the particular Ego and its self-will.

The brilliant success of the natural sciences gave MateriaUsm a powerful support. The scientist, in- deed, is exposed to the danger of overlooking the soul, and consequently of denying it. Absorption in the study of material nature is apt to bUnd one to the spiritual; but it is an evident fallacy to deny the soul, on the ground that one cannot experimentally prove its existence by physical means. Natural science oversteps its limits when it encroaches on the spiritual domain and claims to pronounce there an expert de- cision, and it is a palpable error to declare that science demonstrates the non-existence of the soul. Various proofs from natural science are of course brought for- ward by the Materialists. The "closed .system of natural causation" is appealed to: experience every- where finds each natural phenomenon based upon another as its cause, and the chain of natural causes would be broken were the same brought in. On the other hand, Sigwart (1830-1904) justly observes that the soul has its share in natural causation, and is there- fore included in the system. At most it could be de- duced from this system that a pure spirit, that God could not interfere in the course of nature; but this cannot be proved by either experience or reason. On the contrary it is clear that the Author of nature can interfere in its course, and history informs us of His many miraculous interventions. In any case it is be- yond doubt that our bodily conditions are influenced by our ideas and volitions, and this influence is more


clearly perceived by us than the causality of fire in the production of heat. We must therefore reject as false the theory of a closed system of natural causation , if this means the exclusion of spiritual causes.

But modern science claims to have given positive proof that in the human body there is no place for the soul. The great discovery by R. Mayer (1814—78), Joule (1818-89), and Helmlioltz (1821-94) of the con- .servation of energy proves that energy cannot disap- pear in nature and caimot originate there. But the soul could of itself create energy, and there would also be energy lost, whenever an external stimulus influ- enced the soul and gave rise to sensation, which is not a form of energy. Now recent experiment has shown that the energy in the human body is exactly equiv- alent to the nutriment consumed. In these facts, however, there is absolutely notlijng against the exist- ence of the soul. The law of the conservation of energy is an empirical law, not a fundamental princi- ple of thought; it is deduced from the material world and is based on the activity of matter. A body can- not set itself in motion, can produce no force; it must be impelled by another, which in the impact loses its own power of movement. This is not lost, but is changed into the new movement. Thus, in the material world, motion, which is really kinetic energy, can neither originate nor altogether cease. This law does not hold good for the immaterial world, which is not subject to the law of inertia. That our higher intellectual activities are not bound by the law is most plainly seen in our freedom of will, Ijy which we deter- mine ourselves either to move or to remain at rest. But the intellectual activities take place with the co- operation of the sensory processes; and, since these latter are functions of the bodily organs, they are like them subject to the law of inertia. They do not enter into activity without some stimulus; they cannot stop their activity without some external influence. They are, therefore, subject to the law of the conservation of energy, whose applicability to the human body, as shown by biological experiment, proves nothing against the soul. Consequently, while even without experi- ment, one must admit the law in the case of sentient beings, it can in no wise affect a pure spirit or an angel. The " Achi lies " of materialistic philosophers, therefore, proves nothing against the soul. It was accordingly highly opportune when the eminent physiologist, Du- bois Reymond (1818-96), called a vigorous halt to his colleague by his "Ignoramus et Ignorabimus". In his lectures, "UeberdieGrenzen der Naturerkenntniss" (Leipzig, 1872), he shows that feeling, consciousness, etc., cannot be explained from the atoms. He errs in- deed in declaring permanently^ inexplicable everything for which natural science cannot account; the explana- tion must be furnished by philosophy.

Even theologians have defended Materialism. Thus, for example, F. D. Strauss in his work "Der alte und neue Glaube" (1872) declares openly for Materialism, and even adopts it as the basis of his religion; the material universe with its laws, although they occa- sionally crush us, must be the object of our veneration. The cultivation of music compensates him for I he loss of all ideal goods. Among the materialistic ijhilo.so- phers of this time, Ueberweg (1826-71), author of the well-known "History of Philo.sojjhy ", deserves men- tion; it is noteworthy that he at first supported the Ari.stoteleau teleology", but later fell away into materiaj- istic mechanism. There is indeed consideralile difli- culty in demonstrating mathematically the final ob- ject of nature; with those to whom the consideration of the marvellous wisdom displayed in its ordering does not bring the conviction that it caimot owe its origin to blind physical forces, proofs will avail but little. To us, indeed, it is inconceivable how any one can overlook or deny the evidences of design and of the adaptation of means for the attainment of mani- fold ends. ,. — ,