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Page:Catholic Encyclopedia, volume 10.djvu/67

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MATERIALISM


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MATERIALISM


must deny the immortality of the soul, since in the dis- solution of the body the soul must also perish, and he labours to no effect when he tries to bolster up the doctrine of survival with all kinds of fantastic ideas.

Closely connected with this theory is the so-called " pyscho-physical parallelism", which most modern psychologists since Fechner, especially Wundt and Paulsen, energetically advocate. This emphasizes so strongly the spirituality of the soul that it rejects as impossible any influence of the soul on the body, and thus makes spiritual and bodily activities run side by side (parallel) without affecting each other. Wundt, indeed, goes so far as to make the whole world consist of will-units, and regards matter as mechanized spiritual activity. Paulsen, on the other hand, en- deavours to explain the concurrence of the two series of activities by tleclaring that the material processes of the body are the reflection of the spiritual. One might well think that there could not be a more emphatic denial of Materialism. Yet this exaggerated Spiritual- ism and Idealism agrees with the fundamental dogma of tlic Materialists in denying the substantiality and immortality of the soul. It asserts that the soul is nothing else than the aggregate of the successive inter- nal activities without any psychical essence. This declaration leads inevitably to Materialism, because activity without an active subject is inconceivable; and, since the substantiality of the soul is denied, the body must be the subject of the spiritual activities, as otherwise it would be quite impossible that to certain physical impressions there should correspond percep- tions, volitions, and movements. In any case this exaggerated Spiritualism, which no intelligent person can accept, cannot be regarded as a refutation of Materialism. Apart from Christian philosophy no philosophical system has yet succeeded in successfully coml)atting Materialism. One needs but a somewhat accurate knowledge of the recent literature of natural science and philosophy to be convinced that the "ref- utation " of Materialism by means of the latest Ideal- ism is idle talk. Thus, Ostwald proclaims his doctrine of energy the refutation of Materialism, and, in his " Vorlesungen iiber Naturphilosophie", endeavours "to fill the yawning chasm, which since Descartes gapes between spirit and matter", by subordinating the ideas of matter and spirit under the concept of energy. Thus, consciousness also is energy, the nerve- energy of the brain. He is inclined "to recognize consciousness as an essential characteristic of the energy of the central organ, just as space is an essential characteristic of mechanical energy and time of kinetic energy." Is not this Materialism pure and simple?

Entirely materialistic also is the widely accepted physiological explanation of psychical activities, espe- cially of the feelings, such as fear, anger etc. This is defended (e. g.) by Uexkiill, whom we have already referred to as a vigorous opponent of Materialism. He endeavours to found, or at least to illustrate this by the most modern experiments. In his work "Der Kampf um die Tierseele" (1903), he says: "Sup- pose that with the help of refined rontgen rays we could project magnified on a screen in the form of movable shadow-waves the processes in the nervous system of man. According to our present knowledge, we might thus expect the following. We observe the subject of the experiment, when a bell rings near by, and we see the shadow on the screen (representing the wave of excitation) hurry along the auditory nerve to the brain. We follow tlie shadow into the cerebrum, and. if the person makes a movement in response to the sound, centrifugal shadows are also presented to our observation. This experiment would be in no way different from any physical experiment of a simi- lar nature, except that in the case of the brain with its intricate system of pathways the course of the stimulus and the transformation of the accumulated energy would necessarily form a very complicated and con-


fused picture. " But what will be thereby proved or even illustrated? Even without rontgen rays we know that, in the case of hearing, nerve waves proceed to the brain, and that from the brain motor effects pass out to the peripheral organs. But these effects are mere movements, not psychical perception; for consciousness attests that sensory perception, not to speak of thought and volition, is altogether different from movement, in fact the very opposite. We can think simultaneously of opposites (e. g. existence and non-existence , round and angular) , and these opposites must be simultaneously present in our consciousness, for otherwise we could not compare them, nor per- ceive and declare their oppositeness. Now, it is absolutely impossible that a nerve or an atom of the brain should simultaneously execute opposite move- ments. And, not merely in the case of true opposites, but also in the judgment of every distinction, the nerve elements must simultaneously have different movements, of different rapidity and in different directions.

An undisguised Materialism is espoused by A. Kann in his " Naturgeschichte der Moral und die Physik des Denkens", with the sub-title "Der Idealismus eines Materialisten " (Vienna and Leipzig, 1907). He says: "To explain physically the complicated processes of thought, it is above all necessary that the necessity of admitting anything ' psychical ' be eliminated. Our ideas as to what is good and bad are for the average man so intimately connected with the psychical that it is a prime necessity to eliminate the psychical from our ideas of morality, etc. Only when pure, material science has built up on its own founda- tions the whole structure of our morals and ethics can one think of elaborating for unliiased readers what I call the 'Physics of Thinking'. To prepare the ground for the new building, one must first 'clear away the debris of ancient notions', that is 'God, prayer, immortality (the soul)'." The reduction of psychical life to physics is actually attempted by J. Pikler in his treatise "Physik des Seelenlebens" (Leipzig, 1901). He converses with a pupil of the highest form, at first in a very childish way, but finally heavy guns are called into action. "That all the various facts, all the various phenomena of psychi- cal life, all the various states of consciousness are the self-preservation of motion, has not yet, I think, been explained by any psychologist." Such is indeed the case, for, generally speaking, gross Materialism has been rejected. Materialism refers psychical plu^nom- ena to movements of the nerve substance; but self- preservation of motion is motion, and consequently this new psycho-physics is pure Materialism. In any case, matter cannot "self-preserve" its motion; motion persists on its own account in virtue of the law of the conservation of energy. Therefore, according to this theory, all matter ought to exhibit psychical phenomena.

Still more necessary and simple was the evolution of the world according to J. Lichtneckert (Nevic wi.sscn- schaftl. Lebenslehre der Weltalls, Leipzij;, l'.)():i). His " Ideal oderSelb-stzweckmaterialisnius :ils ilic absolute Philosophic" (Ideal or End-in-itself ,\l:itcri;ilisni as the Absolute Philosophy) offers "the scientific solution of all great physical, chemical, astronomical, thcolotiical, philosophical, evolutionary, and physiological world- riddles. " Let us select a few ideas from this new absolutist philosophy. "That God and matter arc ab.solut<>ly iclentical" notions, was \mtil to-day un- known." "Hitherto Materialism investigiitcd the external life of matter, and Idealism its inlonial life. From the fusion of these two ccinceptions of life and the world, whioli since tlic earliest tiiiics have walked their seixinite ways .mil fcMi^lit cacli ..iIht, issues the present ■Ab.s„lute'l'hilosoi)hy.' IbTclofore Material- ism has denied, as a fundamental error, teleology or the striving for an end, an4 hence also the spiritual or