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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 72.djvu/35

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31
WHAT IS MATTER?

effects are more or less familiar. Nor need philosophers deny that matter is made up of molecules and atoms, or of electrons even, provided always these smaller and smaller particles are admitted to be bundles of forces, occupying less and less extended allotments of space.

Where this view departs from that of common sense, it is simpler, that is all. Common sense says matter is blue, sweet, soft, etc. No, say the philosophers, these are effects, not properties. Again, common sense says, and here with a shrill insistence, Force is not matter, but in it. No, say philosophers, there is no need of complicating with an irrelevant distinction. Force, activity, achievement, that is all there is to matter. As Heracleitus said 2,500 years ago, παντα ῥει, flowing, change, doing is all.

Beyond question the blind force of our nature strongly inclines us to ask for more. But in obeying this prompting we are but worshipping an idol of the tribe, a fallacy patent enough as soon as the nature of the mind is understood. The insistence on something more than force in outer objects registers the triumph of the "imagination," a blind "faculty," as Kant rightly called it, unaware of its own contents and of their significance, over clear-sighted and self-critical reason. Everything we talk of and think about, including matter, is identified, when necessary, and mentally dealt with, by means of its picture stored away in the imagination, which picture appears automatically when its aid is required. Without such counterfeit presentments the mind could not make a beginning of dealing with the objects about it, for their names are not pasted upon them, and besides, the mind is often concerned with them during their absence, and must then have a representative with which to treat. Now, most men picture matter chiefly in visual terms, though partly in terms of touch and muscular feelings, which last are so constantly aroused by the resistance of things. And the fallacy consists in clinging to the picture of matter, naïvely, uncritically, inaccurately constructed before reflection, out of our most familiar sensations, and in insisting that it correctly represents matter, although reason clearly demonstrates that sensations are no parts of matter, but only its effects. And the fallacy continues to impose on us because the picture works in subconsciousness, automatically registering dissatisfaction with force, as failing to fill out its notion of what matter is. As soon as we know that the picture of our imagination is formed during the early unthinking days of our ignorance, we know that it has no proper standing as against the critically tested conclusions of reason. But that does not check the dissatisfaction automatically suggested by the imagination, which philosophers feel in common with other men. The difference is that they disregard the feeling; they refuse to bow down to this idol of the tribe.

The same dynamic view of matter is reached by another avenue of approach, as is pointed out by students of the evolution of mind.