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Page:Catholic Encyclopedia, volume 10.djvu/66

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MATERIALISM


44


MATERIALISM


Tlio lolooli)gic:il (luestioii, so awkwiird for Material- ism, was tlumght to he finally settled liy I'arwiiiism, in whieli. as K. Vos' eyiiieally expressed it, (lod w;vs shown the door. The bluul operation of natural forces ami laws, without spiritual agencies, was held to explain the origin of species and their purposiveness as well. .-Mthough Darwin himself was not a Material- ist, his mechanical explanation of teleology brought water to the mill of Materialism, which recognizes only the mechanism of the atoms. This evolution of matter from the protozoon to man, announced from university chairs as the result of science, was eagerly taken up by the social democrats, and became the funilaiitental tenet of their conception of the world aiul of life. Although officially socialists disown their hatred of religion, the rejection of the higher ilestiny of man ami the consequent falling back on the material order serve them most efficiently in stirring up the de- luded and discontented masses. Against this domina- tion of Materialism among high and low there set in to- wards the end of the nineteenth century a reaction, ■which was due in no small measure to the alarming translation of the materialistic theory into practice by the socialists and anarchists. At bottom, however, it is but another instance of what the oldest experience shows: the line of progress is not vertical but spiral. Overstraining in one direction starts a rebound in the other, which usually reaches the opposite extreme. The spiritual will not be reduced to the material, but it frequently commits the error of refusing to tolerate the co-existence of matter.

Thus at present the reaction against Materialism leads in many instances to an extreme Spiritualism or Phenomenalism, which regards matter merely as a projection of the soul. Hence also the widely-echoed cry: "Back to Kant". Kant regarded matter as entirely the product of consciousness, and this view is outspokenly adopted by L. Busse, who, in his work "Geist und Korper, Seele und Leib" (Leipzig, 1903), earnestly labours to discredit Materialism. He treats exhaustively the relations of the psychical to the physical, refutes the so-called psycho-physical parallel- ism, and decides in favour of the interaction of soul and body. His conclusion is the complete denial of matter. "Metaphysically the world-picture changes .... The corporeal world as such disappears — it is a mere appearance for the apprehending mind — and is succeeded by something spiritual. The idealistic- .spiritualistic metaphysics, whose validity we here tacitly assume without further justification, recognizes no corporeal but only spiritual being. ' All reality is spiritual', is its verdict" (p. 479).

How little Materialism has to fear from Kantian rivalry is plainly shown, among others, by the natural philosopher UexkuU. In the " Neue Rundschau " of 1907 (I'mrisse einer neuen Weltanschauung), he most vigorously opposes Darwinism and Ilaeckelism, but finally rejects with Kant the substantiality of the soul, and even falls back into the Materialism which he so severely condemns. He says : " The disintegrating in- fluence of Haeckelism on the spiritual life of the masses comes, not from the consequences which his conception of eternal things calls forth, but from the Darwinian thesis that there is no purpose in nature. Really, one might suppo.se that on the day, vvhen the great dis- covery of the descent of man from the ape was made, the call went forth; 'Back to the Ape'." "Thewalls, which confine Materialism, still stand in all their firm- ness: it is impossible to explain the purposive charac- ter of life from material forces." "We are so con- stituted that we are capable of recognizing certain purposes with our intellect, while others we long for and enjoy through our sense of beauty. One general plan binds all our spiritual and emotional forces into a unity. " " This view of life Haeckel seeks to replace by his sen.seless talk aliout cell-souls and soul-cells, and thinks by his boyish trick to annihilate the giant Kant.


Chamberlain's words on llaeckrlisiu will find an echo in the soul of every educated person: ' It is not poetry, science, or philosophy, but a still-born bastard of all three'." But what docs the "(!iant Kant" teach? That we ourselves place the l)urpose in the things, but that it is Mol in the things! This view is hIso held by Materialists. TcxkuU finds the refutation of Material- ism in the " empirical schenie of the objects", which is formed from our sense-ixTceptions. This is for him, indeed, iilentical with the linrtynngsmelodic (melody of motion), to which he reduces objects. Thus again there is no substance but only motion, which .Material- ism likewise teaches. We shall later find the Kantian UexkiiU among the outs])okeu Materialists.

I'hilo.sopliers of anotlier tendency endeavour to refute Materialism by supposing everything endowed with life and soul. To this class belong Fechner, Wundt, Paulsen, Haeckel, and the botanist Francd, who ascribe intelligence even to plants. One might well believe that this is a radical remedy for all materi- alistic cravings. The pity is that Materialists should be afTorded an opportunity for ridicule by such a fiction. That brute matter, atoms, electrons should possess life is contrary to all experience. It is a boast of modern science that it admits only what is re- vealed by exact observation; but the universal and unvarying verdict of observation is that, in the in- organic world, everything shows characteristics oppo- site to those which life exhibits. It is also a serious de- lusion to believe that one can explain the human soul and its unitary consciousness on the supposition of cell-souls. A number of souls could never have one and the same consciousness. Consciousness and every psychic activity are immanent, they abide in the sub- ject and do not operate outwardly; hence each in- dividual soul has its own consciousness, and of any other knows absolutely nothing. A combination of several souls into one consciousness is thus impossible. But, even if it were possil)le, this composite conscious- ness would have a completely different content from the cell-souls, since it would be a marvel if all these felt, thought, and willed exactly the same. In this view immortality would be as completely done away with as it is in Materialism.

We have described this theory as an untenable fiction. R. Semon, however, undertakes to defend the existence of memory in all living beings in his work "Die Mneme als erhaltendes Prinzip im Wechsel des organischen Geschehens" (Leipzig, 1905). He says: "The effect of a stimulus on living substance con- tinues after the stimulation, it has an engraphic effect. This latter is called the cngram of the corresponding stimulus, and the sum of the engrams, which the organism inherits or acquires during its life, is the mneme, or memory in the widest sense." Now, if by this word the persistence of psychic and corporeal states were alone signified, there would be little to urge against this theory. But by memory is under- stood a psychic function, for whose presence in plants and minerals not the slightest plea can be offered. The persistence is even more easily explained in the case of inorganic nature. This Hylozoism, which, as Kant rightly declares, is the death of all science, is also called the "double aspect theory" (Zweiseileniheorie). Fechner indeed regards the material as only the outer side of the spiritual. The relation between them is that of the convex side of a curve to the concave; they are essentially one, regarded now from without and again from within — the same idea expressed in differ- ent words. By this explanation Materialism is not overcome but proclaimed. For as to the reality of matter no sensible man can doubt; consequently, if the spiritual is merely a special aspect of matter, it also must be material. The convex side of a ring is really one thing with the concave; there is but the same ring regarded from two different sides. Thus Fechner, in spite of all his disclaimers of Materialism,