Copyright
Borden Parker Bowne.

Metaphysics online

. (page 28 of 34)
Online LibraryBorden Parker BowneMetaphysics → online text (page 28 of 34)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


observe the facts and classify and formulate them before
physiological psychology can begin.

5. Is the mental life dependent on the organism ?

This question is unclear. Dependence may be understood
in the sense of causal production by the organism or it may
mean an order of concomitant variation in the physical and
the mental series. In the former sense the mental life is
not dependent on the organism. In the latter sense there
is mutual dependence of each on the other. There are men-
tal states arising in connection with organic states; and



346 METAPHYSICS

there are organic states arising in connection with mental
states. In this sense the causality works both ways.

But the question is further unclear. It may mean, Could
a mental life go on apart from any organism ? Could our
mental life go on apart from any organism? Could it go
on apart from the present organism ?

To question one, the answer must be that an absolute
mental life would need no organism. To question two, the
answer is that the finite spirit, in so far as it is in interac-
tion with other spirits and with the cosmic system, must
always need some fixed system for receiving and giving im-
pulses ; otherwise it would not be in the world at all. If
this means organism then organism is necessary. To ques-
tion three the answer is that it is easily conceivable that
our mental life should go on under other organic conditions.
The actual organism is only a stimulus to mental unfolding
and a servant of the unfolded life ; and there is no difficul-
ty in the thought that this service should be performed in
other and better ways. At present, however, the organism
is mentally conditioned and the mind is organically con-
ditioned, in the sense of mutual concomitance in their re-
spective changes.

6. Can we learn anything of these conditions ?

Without doubt. In a general way we already know
much, and it is conceivable that we should know much
more. The interdependence of mind and body might be
specified into minute details. "We know that we see with
the eye and not with the ear, while we hear with the ear
and not with the fingers. It is conceivable that, in like
manner, other mental functions should find their physical
attendants located in some specific part of the brain, and
not in the brain as a whole. Such a fact, if established,
would contain no ground for alarm or even surprise. On
the other hand, it is conceivable that growing knowledge



THE SOUL 347

should extend the significance of the mind for the or-
ganism far beyond what is at present surmised. In a gen-
eral way, physicians have long recognized the importance
of mental health for physical health ; and that a merry
heart doeth good like a medicine is a truth of ancient recog-
nition.

Here then is a large and important field of study, to find
and fix the facts of the mutual dependence of mind and
body. This field belongs to the physician and the physio-
logical psychologist. The only caveat the critic cares to
issue is to beware not to take the order of concomitant va-
riation for one of materialistic causation.

At the same time it is plain that this can be done only
in a general way. By long and careful pathological study
a doctrine of localization might conceivably be proved for
various mental functions, and important correlations and
concomitances might be discovered between physical and
mental pathology. Such facts lie within the range of pos-
sible discovery and might be valuable if established. But
when we begin to theorize on the molecular structure of
the brain and the peculiar molecular structure and func-
tions whereby the brain serves as the organ of thought,
then we pass beyond the range of our faculties and lose our-
selves in vain imaginings. What takes place in the living
brain as the centre of the physical system is only a matter
of hypothesis ; what takes place in the brain as the organ
of thought is a subject of the vaguest surmise. That this
is so is manifest upon inspection. Unfortunately, this field
has been ravaged by dealers in mind-stuff who think only
in physical images, and they have made such fearful and
wonderful discoveries that one is at a loss to say which is
the more mythological, their psychology or their anatomy
and physiology. " Memory -pills " are already advertised;
and we may confidently expect the discovery of the thought



348 METAPHYSICS

microbe, to be followed by the preparation of " cultures "
for inoculation.

7. What shall we say of psychology without a soul ?

There is no such thing. The phrase is either absurd, or
else it is a misleading expression for the following common-
place fact :

It is possible to do detailed work in psychology without
in any way going into the metaphysics or the presupposi-
tions of psychology. Detailed studies of the senses, or the
general dependence of the mental life on physical conditions,
and pretty much all special questions, are of this sort. Such
inquiries can be carried on on the general basis of experi-
ence without ever asking how experience is possible. It
ought, however, to be possible to distinguish between this
familiar fact and the denial which the phrase seems to im-
ply. Such phrases are not needed to express either the
problem or its solution. The fact of experience is exhausted
in the discovery that the mental life has physical processes
for its concomitant ; and the aim of the wise man must be
to find the law of this concomitance, without confusing or
distorting the fact by importing materialistic suggestions
into it in the guise of figures of speech. The extreme deli-
cacy and sensitiveness of intellectual conscience which finds
in the soul an unscientific metaphysical entity would lead
us to expect equal caution in assuming physical entities and
in using materialistic metaphors. But, as of old, those who
strain out the gnat are apt to bolt the camel.

Herewith we close our catechism and our profession of
faith concerning the soul in itself.



CHAPTER H
SOUL AND BODY

IT may be metaphysical, or anything else disagreeable,
but there is no escape from regarding the soul as some-
thing substantially real. It abides, acts, and is acted upon ;
and these are the essential marks of ontological reality.
Whatever it may be with respect to the infinite, no other
finite thing can show so good a title to the name of reality.
In comparison with the body, the soul is the more real of
the two ; for the former is in perpetual flux, and, as body,
it is at best only a more or less constant form of the inces-
sant flow of the physical elements ; and these, in turn, are
suspected of being only abstract hypostases of phenomena.
But this is commonly overlooked. That the body is sub-
stantially real common sense never doubts ; and even the
contemn ers of metaphysics in psychology are clear as to
the metaphysics of body. Finally, from the phenomenal
point of view, the body is an important adjunct of the in-
ner life ; and we need to get some conception of its mean-
ing and function. Thus we are introduced to a new problem,
that concerning the mutual relations of the body and the
soul. Our aim is not to go into details, but only to deter-
mine the general form both of the problem and of its solu-
tion.

Popular thought with its all-embracing category of space
has often puzzled itself with questions concerning the mut-
ual space relations of soul and body ; and many whimsies



350 METAPHYSICS

have been entertained concerning the whereabouts of the
soul and its location in the body. These questions we pass
over as vacated by the phenomenality of space. The in-
teraction of soul and body, however, is a more important
problem.

Interaction of Soul cmd Body

This problem is vaguely conceived in both popular and
scientific thought. For the former, space is the supreme
category, and all existence is spatial and spatially deter-
mined. Hence results a variety of vague fancies respecting
the soul as having form, small or great, and as various-
ly located in the body, sometimes filling out the body as a
pervasive aura, and sometimes confined to the brain. In
popular scientific thought traces of these whimsies are not
lacking ; and, apart from them, the problem is ambiguously
conceived because of the double meaning of interaction
itself.

Causation, as we have so often said, may be taken in an
inductive and in a metaphysical sense. In the inductive
sense interaction means simply the laws of mutual change
or of concomitant variation among things. In this sense
the interaction of soul and body means only that there is
an order of concomitant variation in mental and organic
changes ; and the inductive problem is to discover the law
of these changes.

As thus understood the problem involves no doctrine of
causality whatever ; and the workers in this field often give
out that they eschew all reference to metaphysical efficiency.
Commonly, however, they are mistaken. They bring a full
line of physical metaphysics with them, which they hold in
high esteem ; and after they have talked a while it becomes
clear that, at least tacitly, they regard the physical order
as a substantial and independent fact, while the mental order



SOUL AND BODY 351

is only a secondary and shadowy appendix of the physical.
Out of this confused state of mind only further confusion
can come ; and the inductive problem, which has no alliance
with materialism, becomes involved in the imbecilities of
that superstition.

From our own metaphysical stand -point the inductive
problem is the only one we have to consider. The tradi-
tional notions of interaction have been set aside, and the
body itself reduced to a phenomenal significance. But there
still remains the important field of study to discover the laws
of concomitant variation in physical and mental changes,
or to find what mental states go with what physical states
and what physical states go with what mental states. This
is the task of the physiological psychologist. And no one
can have any interest in forbidding his work, or in wishing
him other than complete success. But nothing is likely to
be accomplished except by those who have a competent
knowledge of real psychology and of real anatomy and
physiology. The picture psychology and hearsay anatomy
which have been so prominent in this field have their chief
value as sources of educational treatises, rather than of
scientific progress.

But in spite of the pretended rejection of metaphysics,
this question of the interaction of soul and body is sure to
be approached by the rank and file of investigators with
full faith in the metaphysics of common-sense. Hence it is
worth while to consider the form under which the inter-
action is to be conceived, assuming the body to be sub-
stantially real, or to be an aggregate of substantial realities.

By interaction in that case we could only mean that soul
and body affect each other. Indeed the union of the two
has no other meaning than this fact of mutual influence.
On the most realistic theory there is no other interaction or
bond of union than this reciprocal influence.



352 METAPHYSICS

The imagination has commonly confused the problem by
attempting to construe it spatially. The body is conceived
as a physical aggregate ; and the attempt is made to picture
the soul as somewhere within this aggregate, either as a
manikin located within the brain and nervous system, or
as a pervasive and all-embracing aura. Then the elements
of the nervous system are supposed at certain times and
places to start aside from the line of the physical resultant
of their antecedent states without any visible reason ; and
by this time the notion breaks down from its own absurdity.
The manikin soul is absurd; and the laws of continuity
and the conservation of energy are affronted by such a
procedure.

Some of these difficulties disappear on grasping the phe-
nomenality of space. On that view we give up the attempt
to picture the causal realities of the system. Souls and
atoms alike, supposing the latter real, lie among the unpict-
urabie agencies of the system. Shape, size, form, and where-
abouts are inadmissible notions when we pass beyond phe-
nomena.

The horror felt at the atoms not moving in a line with
the physical resultant is a purely home-made one. The in-
visible dynamic states of the elements are the forces which
determine the resultant; and that some of these states
should be in the soul is apriori quite as credible as that
they should be only in the physical elements, and empirically
it is quite as well established. The dogmatic assumption
that the physical system is complete in itself, and closed
against all modification from without, is the only thing dis-
turbed thereby. And seeing that this assumption implies
that our thoughts and volitions have no significance in the
direction of our bodies, it deserves to be disturbed on the
ground both of experience and of good sense.

The conservation of energy, to which reference has been



SOUL AND BODY 353

made, has been the source of much pathetic blundering at
this point. Of course the doctrine, so far as proved, does
not forbid us to admit that our thoughts and volitions count
in the control of the organism, if the facts point that way.
On this matter the wayfaring man can judge as well as the
scientists. But some speculators, whose knowledge would
seem to be mainly of the hearsay type, have been pleased
to erect the doctrine into an absolute necessity which for-
bids the slightest modification. This is pure delusion and
error. Particularly, psychologists who have wished to
stand well with physics have fallen into this blunder. And
then they have said the oddest things about double-faced
somewhats, the complete continuity of the physical series,
and the impossibility of modifying it from the mental side.
Of course this implies that the body starts, stops, and di-
rects itself, speech and all, without control from thought ;
and they have given out that we must not think other-
wise under penalty of conflicting with science. This illus-
trates the extremes to which a romantic devotion to mis-
understood abstractions can carry a mind of the passive
type.

The notion is traditional that the interaction of soul and
body is a specially difficult conception. This mistake is
partly due to the spatial fancies referred to, and partly to
the further fancy that interaction must be by impact. All
are alike groundless. Given the conception of interacting
members, it is quite impossible to tell apriori what states
shall arise in A, J?, and C under the condition X. They
might conceivably be the same, and they might be very
different, according to the nature of the subjects.

Oversight of this fact has led to the invention of go-be-
tweens to mediate the interaction of soul and body. That
certain motions in the brain should be the cause of sensa-
tions in consciousness is thought to involve a break of con-



354 METAPHYSICS

tinuity too great for belief. Accordingly, the attempt has
been made to refine the motions, on the one side, and on
the other, to reduce the sensations to a sub-conscious form
which should be less unlike their physical ground. This
attempt is a product of the imagination, and gives no relief
to thought. Allowing the elements to be real agents, their
motions are not the cause of sensation ; the cause is rather
the metaphysical dynamic states of which the motions are
the spatial expression. Now why, when certain brain mole-
cules are in the metaphysical state which expresses itself in
motion, the soul should pass into the state of conscious sen-
sation is of course mysterious enough ; but it is no more so
than that a piece of iron should become magnetic when an
electric current passes round it. In both cases the mystery
of interaction is equally involved; and in both cases the
mystery is equally great. Neither the fact nor the order
of interaction admits of a/priori deduction, even on the
most realistic theory ; neither have we any insight into the
possibilities which would make one order antecedently more
credible than another. The reason why any order of inter-
action is as it is must ultimately be sought in the plan of
the fundamental reality. The unity of the system cannot
consist in the likeness of the interacting members, but rather
in their subordination, with all their likenesses or antitheses,
to the plan of the whole.

No theory whatever can escape, this sharp antithesis of
the physical and the mental. It is no special difficulty of
spiritualism, but lies with equal or even greater force against
materialism. The materialist and the believer in double-
faced substances cannot give the slightest reason why a
given subjective phase should attend a certain objective
phase and not rather some other. It must be affirmed as
an opaque fact, or else the reason must be found in the plan
of the whole.



SOUL AND BODY 355

This general conclusion must stand. There is, however,
some apparent mitigation of the antithesis in the fact of the
organism. The interaction of soul and body takes place
under the organic form. It is not, then, all physical ele-
ments, or the same physical elements always, which inter-
act with the soul, but only those elements which are com-
prised within the range of an organic activity; thus the
organism seems to be a kind of link between the inorganic
physical and the mental. As physical, it is allied to the
world of matter ; and, as living, it is allied to the world of
mind. Thus it appears in a measure to mediate the sharp
opposition of mind and matter. That thought should at-
tend, or be summoned by, any sort of inorganic physical
movements seems something like an affront to the law of
continuity, but that thought should attend organic changes
impresses us as a much more manageable thesis. And,
conversely, that, upon occasion of thought and volition,
inorganic physical changes should arise which were not con-
sequents of their physical antecedents would seem to many
altogether incredible, who would yet find it quite within
the limits of credibility that organic physical changes should
result from mental states. The supposed relief here may
turn out to be fictitious; nevertheless there is sufficient faith
in it, both in popular thought and in current speculation,
to make it desirable to examine it. This raises the ques-
tion what the organism is and how it comes to exist.

The Body as Organism

Still assuming the reality of the physical elements, we
have three factors in the problem as a whole: (1) the ele-
ments which compose the organism ; (2) the cause of their
union into an organism ; and (3) the subject of the mental
life which is manifested in connection with the organism.



356 METAPHYSICS

The consideration of these points will prepare the way for
our final view.

Of course on the realistic physical basis the organism is
substantially nothing. It is a highly complex aggregate of
physical elements, but if these were removed nothing would
remain. Allowing, however, as universally recognized, that
we find in the organism factors and processes which are
found in the inorganic realm, we must also allow that we
find them subordinated to an organic law, so that they
build an organism which is as different from the component
elements as an architectural structure is more than the un-
formed material of which it is built. Where shall we find
the seat of this law ?

First, we may seek to find it in the elements themselves.
This leads, as we shall see, to fantastic and grotesque as-
sumptions.

Secondly, we may ascribe it to life, as something distinct
from the elements, on the one hand, and from the soul, on
the other. This view is not so clear as it seems, nor so use-
ful either.

Thirdly, we may view the soul itself as the ground of
form. It has a phase of organic activity and one of con-
scious activity. Both of these are united as the expression
of the nature of the one soul. In this view we should have
the following stages :

1. The soul in interaction with the general physical sys-
tem builds and maintains an organism within certain limits
and under certain conditions set by its own nature and the
general laws of the system.

2. This organized matter is already within the sphere of
the soul's activity as well as under the general physical laws.

3. Hence the organism is partly a physical and partly a
psychical function. Its interaction with the extra-organic
realm involves the organic activity of the soul ; and because



SOUL AND BODY 357

of the unity of the soul it could hardly fail to have signif-
icance for the mental activity.

4. Conscious activity based upon and growing out of the
organic activity is the final stage. Thus the continuity of
the organic and the mental world is in a measure assured
and some reason given for their intimate inter-relations.

On the assumed reality of the physical elements, this is
the view which offers least resistance to thought. In all
complex organisms, whether in the animal or plant world,
we should have to assume an organic subject as the ground
of form. "When these subjects also rise into conscious men-
tal life we have souls.

No one of these views quite agrees with that which our
more idealistic metaphysics demands. But before develop-
ing this view it seems well to expound more at length the
two first views mentioned. Between them they divide the
assent of popular thought in this field, and both alike
abound in bad logic and crude metaphysics.

Mechanism and Vitalism

There has been a very general demand in recent years
that the organism be viewed as a function of its component
elements, just as any machine is a function of its parts. As
aquosity, it was said, is not needed to explain the water
molecule, but only the hydrogen and oxygen which com-
pose it, and as horologity is not needed to explain the run-
ning of a clock, but only the parts in their actual relations ;
so vitality is not needed to explain the existence and prop-
erties of the organism, but only the component elements
with their inherent laws and complex interactions. Vitality
is as great a fiction as aquosity or horologity. This was
called the mechanical view of life and was opposed by the
defenders of vitalism.



358 METAPHYSICS

The mechanical view has often been ambiguously con-
ceived. Sometimes the claim has been made that physics
and chemistry explain life, but this was due to logical su-
perficiality. Physics and chemistry explain nothing but
themselves, and indeed they explain nothing in any case,
being but names for certain orders of phenomena. The ele-
ments as doing only what they are found to do in the phys-
ical or chemical laboratory could do nothing else, unless we
assume other and hidden powers which might be manifest-
ed upon occasion. It was this insight which led Professor
Tyndall to say that the attempt to explain life by matter
as conceived in the inorganic sciences is "absurd, monstrous,
and fit only for the intellectual gibbet." Accordingly he
proposed to enlarge the notion of matter and endow it with
various mystic and subtle properties and potencies.

And this is the form which the mechanical view must
take if it is to be held at all. The forces of the elements
are only abstractions from the activities of the elements;
and the elements do whatever is done. And as the elements
in certain relations manifest physical and chemical proper-
ties, so in certain other relations they manifest vital prop-
erties. But just as the properties of an inorganic atomic or
molecular complex depend on the properties of the con-
stituent elements, so the properties of an organic molecular
complex depend on the properties of the constituent atoms.
The mechanical theory, therefore, can assume a vital force
with just the same right as it does a chemical force. In-
deed, it must assume both, but both in the same sense. To
explain gravitation, it assumes a peculiar endowment of the
elements and calls it gravity. To explain chemical action,
it assumes another peculiar endowment of the atoms and
calls it affinity. So also to explain vital phenomena, it as-
sumes again a peculiar endowment of the elements and calls
it vitality. These several -ities all stand on the same basis.



SOUL AND BODY 359

They are all alike necessary and are all alike but abstrac-
tions from the several forms of atomic interaction.

Many upholders of vitalism surrender at this point. They
think it sufficient to point out that the elements, as capable
of only physical and chemical manifestation, are inadequate



Online LibraryBorden Parker BowneMetaphysics → online text (page 28 of 34)