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ble nature, and substitutes for them some physical image.
The only demand he makes upon this image is that it shall
be easily pictured. Then come fictitious and improvised
anatomy and a great cloud of whimsies about cells and
fibres and nascent motor excitations and inter-cellular ac-
tivities. But whoever affirms such things is bound in logic


either to show by analysis of the mental life that we must
affirm the facts in question, or else by observation and ex-
periment to prove that these facts exist, and especially that
they exist in the alleged correlation with the mental facts.
That brain-cells and fibres exist is far enough from proving
that they have any such functions and relations as our pic-
torial psychology ascribes to them. The strict application
of this rule would probably make a solitude and a grateful
silence in this region, and would result in a somewhat ag-
nostic attitude towards all speculation on this subject which
goes beyond some general principles which may be verified
in experience. Such are the general laws of concomitant
development, laws of habit, laws of health, laws of rest and
repair, general laws of the influence of body on mind and
of mind on body. We know that the physical echoes the
mental and that the mental varies with the physical. Laws
of this kind lie open to investigation ; but whatever lies be-
yond them in the way of abstract speculation is to be re-
ceived with the utmost caution. Most of what has been
done in this field is a sad reflection on human intelligence.

Origin of Souls

On this subject only two views are self -consistent, the
creation of souls, or the reduction of mental phenomena to
functions of organization. The second view is materialism,
and has been finally condemned.

The first view may be held in a double form. We may
suppose that souls were all produced by some original crea-
tive act, or that they are individually produced in connec-
tion with the individual organism. The former conception
would give, so far as this life is concerned, the doctrine of
the pre-existence of souls and possibly some form of trans-
migration, or metempsychosis.


This doctrine of pre-existence has found favor with some
speculative and religious dreamers, but it is so utterly with-
out any positive foundation or speculative advantage, and
involves us in so many gratuitous difficulties, that it is likely
to be confined to the dreamers. An existence in which the
solution of personality is so complete as this view would de-
mand would be only verbally the same. Practically, then,
we are shut up to affirm the individual creation of souls in
connection with individual earthly existence.

This view, however, has not always found favor. Theo-
logians especially have found it a stumbling-block, and have
sought a more excellent way. The soul of the child is said
to be in some way derived from the parents, the doctrine
of traducianism. It is held that there is a law, or a world-
order, according to which souls are produced, yet without
being created outright. This is vague. A law, or world-
order, is only a conception and always needs some agent or
agents for its realization. Hence, to make this theory in-
telligible, we must know what the agents are which produce
the effect. If it be said that God has made the elements
such that when combined in certain ways mental phenomena
result, this is simple materialism. If it be said that when
the elements are combined in certain ways a substantial
soul results, this is to allow creation ; but it does not tell us
what creates. But the fancy that the elements, or the
souls of the parents, have power to create a being beyond
themselves, or that they give off something out of which
new souls can be made, is utterly untenable. Emanation,
budding, fission, division, and composition of any kind are
forbidden by the necessary unity of the soul. There is
nothing to do but to fall back on the world-ground, or God,
and say that where and when the divine plan, which is the
law of cosmic activity, calls for it, there and then a soul
begins its existence and development. It is not the out-


come of its finite antecedents, but is a new beginning in the
system and is immediately posited by the infinite.

There are two classes of difficulties that meet us here.
The first class springs from the imagination. We try to
picture the operation in terms of space. We tend to con-
ceive the soul as a thing to be brought from somewhere,
probably from some extra-siderial region, and we are puz-
zled concerning the bringer and his space relations. In ad-
dition, there is a fancy that the divine agent must appear
among the phenomenal antecedents, a conception which
both science and religion would perhorresce. The matter
admits of being treated in a very pleasant and lively fashion ;
and when the various fancies are traced in detail the con-
ception seems to perish of its own irreverent absurdity.
But all of these whimsies disappear when we see that all
finite reality has its spaceless roots in the omnipresent di-
vine, and that all things stand or move or come to pass be-
cause of the immanent God. The divine immanence and
the non-spatiality of the real, in distinction from the appar-
ent, remove the difficulties arising from the imagination
and the deistic type of philosophy with its absentee God.

If then we ask how souls originate, the answer will fall
out differently according to our stand-point. If we occupy
the phenomenal or inductive stand-point the answer will
recite the various phenomenal conditions revealed in expe-
rience. If we are seeking for the essential causality no
answer can be complete which omits God.

The second class of difficulties referred to arises from sev-
eral sources, theological and moral exigencies and the facts
of heredity. All of these taken together are supposed to
disprove the direct creation of souls.

The strictly theological exigencies are mainly connected
with the doctrine of original sin and its transmitted guilt.
Some have thought that a doctrine of creation would cut


off the entail or the corruption of blood. This difficulty is
fast becoming obsolete.

The moral exigencies arise from the supposed difficulty
in assuming that God should make morally imperfect souls.
And human beings, by the time they exhibit any moral
traits, often show such earthiness that we hardly like to
think of them as fresh from the hand of God.

This difficulty impresses the imagination and a certain
demure type of piety, but traducianism offers no way out.
Its metaphysical untenability has already appeared. Par-
ents are not creators. They and their deeds are only the
occasions on which the world-ground produces effects and
introduces new factors into the system. Neither can the
unaBsthetic and unseemly features of the case be removed
by introducing any sort of mechanism between the creator
and the final product. Responsibility cannot be diminished
by employing machinery to do our work.

The argument from heredity mostly mistakes a theory of
the fact for the fact itself. The fact is simply a certain
similarity between parents and children. There is likewise
often a certain dissimilarity. The likeness which the gen-
eral type demands is supposed to be a matter of course.
The likeness which relates to specific peculiarities is referred
to heredity. If it refers to remote ancestors it is atavism,
or a case of reversion, etc. The unlikeness is referred to
variation, or possibly the instability of the homogeneous, or
some other formidable phrase.

The likenesses and unlikenesses among genealogically
connected individuals are the fact ; all else is theory. The
likenesses are explained by heredity. But heredity is a
metaphor. In a literal sense one individual can inherit
nothing from another. Soul substance admits of no division.
Qualities can neither propagate themselves nor be passed
along. We are led by experience to expect certain similar-


ities between the generations, though in most cases we have
to wait for the facts to declare themselves. But the ulti-
mate ground of the relation, whether of likeness or unlike-
ness, must be sought not in the finite series itself, but in
the plan of the infinite power which produces individuals
and determines their nature. Of course this conclusion does
not forbid our availing ourselves of all the knowledge which
experience may furnish in this field, neither does it deny
that this knowledge often has great practical value ; it only
warns against the fancy that the facts explain themselves,
or that they can be explained by figures of speech. The
wild work of popular writers on this subject and of students
of genealogies, particularly of their own family, is distress-
ingly familiar. The theme readily lends itself to fine writ-
ing, and has been prolific of not a little rhetoric.

What we have said thus far applies to heredity in the
mental field. As a theory in speculative biology, the doc-
trine of heredity generally contradicts itself. In a scheme
which builds on fixed physical elements with fixed forces
and laws, there is no place for heredity of any kind, except
as a description of the successive phases of a phenomenal
order. It would be such heredity as might exist among
the successive combinations in a kaleidoscope. And if we
begin without such forces and laws we lose ourselves in a
primal indefiniteness which would found nothing and be
nothing ; and out of this we could never emerge except by
verbal incantations about differentiation and integration.
It would be an interesting task to determine the meaning
of heredity, habit, and such terms in a purely physical sys-
tem; and it might not be easy to do much in biological
speculation with the resultant conceptions. Out of some
vague sense of this implicit contradiction has arisen in un-
clear minds a tendency to confound both realms to vitalize
matter and devitalize life. Physical laws are spoken of as


" only the fixed habits of the elements," and habits in living
things are simply the greater facility due to the removal of
mechanical obstruction. Thus the two realms are happily
approximated in word, which is the main thing ; and the work
is completed by a discussion of the " psychology of the cell"
and the "psychology of the micro-organisms." Both physical
and mental science cannot fail to be greatly advanced by these
violent plunges into the depths of antithetical absurdities.

The ontological individuality and separateness of souls va-
cate all such questions as whether the human mind devel-
ops from the brute mind; whether they differ in kind or
only in degree. There is no human mind and no brute
mind, but minds, no one of which develops from any other,
or inherits anything from any other. The possibility of ar-
ranging these in ascending linear order is only a logical one,
and it in no way does away with the metaphysical separate-
ness and incommunicability of each individual. The fact
that they appear in connection with a series of organisms
genealogically related decides nothing as to what the indi-
vidual is when he comes, or what the essential power is
which produces individuals. Popular thought finds the
causality in the phenomenal antecedents, where it never
can be. For the rest, the traditional debate does not touch
reality at all, but only the contents of a pair of logical ab-
stractions, the human mind and the brute mind. If the
two abstractions were found to be identical, the concrete
problem would be as hard as ever ; for this consists not in
a verbal shuffling of logical symbols, but in the production
of a series of concrete minds, each of which is a distinct in-
dividual and, except in a figurative sense, inherits nothing
from any other. It has been mistakenly supposed that the
origin of species is the great problem, whereas the impor-
tant question concerns the origin and nature of individuals.
All else is logical manipulation.


The Future of Souls

On this point speculation cannot say much that is posi-
tive. The fact of experience is, first, that in our present
existence the mental life has intimate and complex concom-
itance with the physical, and, secondly, that with the re-
moval of the body the phenomenal manifestation of the
soul life ceases. "We know death only from the outside;
what it is from the inside is beyond us.

The fact that consciousness varies with physical condi-
tions is often used to prove that apart from the body the
mental life would be impossible, and hence that for the con-
scious life, at least, death ends all. If, then, we admit a
soul in connection with the body, we must look upon its
conscious life as bound up with the existence of the body.

But the matter is not quite so simple. We do not see
that the body is necessary to consciousness, but that ab-
normal physical conditions may derange or hinder the de-
velopment of consciousness. On the most realistic view of
the body, it might conceivably be altogether other than it
is, and the mental life might go on just the same. We see
what we view as mental life in connection with the most
diverse organisms. There is, therefore, no apriwi connec-
tion between the mental life and any particular type of or-
ganism ; and, indeed, we are quite unable to tell in any case
what the present or any other organism could do as a ground
of mentality. The relation, whatever it is, can only be
viewed as factual and contingent. The actual body, then,
is no analytically necessary factor of our inner life. We
may suppose the necessary stimulus thereto given directly
by the infinite, or we may suppose a succession of organ-
isms to provide the conditions of higher and higher mental


As to the fact of future existence pure speculation can-
not decide. It destroys knowledge, but it makes room for
belief. Criticism makes short work of the pretended dis-
proofs of immortality, by showing that they are only weak-
nesses of the dogmatic imagination. It equally overturns
the sense dogmatism which finds in the spatial and physical
the supreme, if not the only, type of the real. It shows
that the physical, even if temporally first in the finite order,
can lay no claim to be the truly real of which all later fac-
tors must be viewed as only products. The reality of the
finite would not be the physical alone, nor the mental alone;
but both alike must be viewed as phases and implications
of the thought and plan of the infinite. By showing the
phenomenality of all spatial existence and of space itself,
criticism further removes the difficulties which arise from
the attempt to construe the soul and the immortal life spa-
tially. The decay and failure of the body do not analyti-
cally imply the destruction of the soul, as would be the
case if the body were its causal ground. The soul, when
the body fails, has not to go wandering through space to
find another home ; it is continuously comprised in the
thought and activity of the infinite. God gave it life, and
if he wills he will maintain it. This actual existence of all
things in God, while it does not remove the mystery of our
being, does diminish the sense of grotesque forlornness which
the conception of our disembodied existence is pretty sure
to awaken when we conceive it in spatial forms.

Speculation makes room for belief, but for positive faith
we must fall back on the demands of our moral and relig-
ious nature, or on some word of revelation, or on both to-
gether. Our metaphysical reasonings on the nature of sub-
stance do not help us here. Speculatively we can only lay
down a formal principle without being able to draw any
concrete inferences from it. As all finite things have the


ground of their existence in the divine plan, we must say
that they will continue or pass away as their significance
for that plan demands. Of course we are ready to say that
only moral values are eternally significant, but it is well
not to be too sure of our deductions in the concrete. If
so many seemingly absurd things can exist, there is no
telling how long they may continue; and, on the other
hand, there are few things of such supreme value as to
make their vanishing a self-evident absurdity.


IN a previous chapter we have treated of mechanism and
mechanical explanation. We seek to break up the complex
into the simple and combine it again from its elements.
We look for the elementary laws of procedure and then
seek to understand the fact as a result of those laws. In
the mechanical and inorganic world this largely takes the
form of analysis and synthesis according to rule, or of de-
composition and recomposition. We break up the body
into elements and regard it as resulting from their union, etc.

As the inorganic sciences first attained to any settled and
successful method of procedure, they very naturally tended
to give law to the studies in higher realms. Accordingly,
the attempt has very generally been made to carry this
mechanical method into the organic and mental field, but
only with imperfect success. Explanation by composition
is possible only when dealing with numerical and inorganic
wholes, the parts of which may exist independently. But
the living body is not the sum of its parts, but the parts
are functions of the body. The organic law of the whole
precedes and determines the parts; and the parts are not
parts existing by themselves, but only in connection with
the whole. Neither are the parts mechanically united by
mere juxtaposition; they unfold organically through the
life within.

No mechanical or spatial representation of organic activ-


ities is possible. And the mechanical study of life mast
be confined to a study of the observable phenomenal laws
revealed in organic processes. This study is of the greatest
practical value, but it remains on the surface. When it
claims to reveal life itself it loses itself among showy ver-
bal generalizations which at bottom mean nothing or are
mere assurances of dogmatic theory.

The same is true of the mind in an even more marked
degree. If organic activities cannot be conceived in spatial
form, they at least produce spatial forms. They are, tjien,
allied to space in a way which removes any manifest ab-
surdity in speaking of them in space metaphors. But when
we come to the facts of psychology, neither the mental
subject nor the mental states have any spatial properties,
and these properties cannot be ascribed to them without
absurdity. Yet because we approach the mental life from
the physical side, and all our language concerning it is cast
in the moulds of matter, there is an almost universal effort
to express the life in spatial and mechanical terms ; and, in
analogy with the inorganic sciences, composition is put for-
ward as the great type of explanation. As masses are com-
pounded of molecules, and molecules of atoms, so all com-
plex mental states are compounded of simpler ones, and are
to be understood through them. This is the conception
which underlies the " synthetic psychology."

This view is perfectly natural and perfectly clear to one
who approaches the mental life from the physical side, and
without the critical training which enables him to see the
mental facts in their unique and incommensurable character.
The result is that a fearfully large part of psychological
literature is a mirage of words and physical images, which
either conceal the facts entirely or distort them out of all
likeness to themselves. Nowhere has the fallacy of lan-
guage wrought greater havoc and ravage than in this field ;


and psychology has no more pressing duty than to throw
off its age-long bondage to figures of speech. Of course in
studying the mental life, \ve must look for the fundamental
psychological laws, and must seek to exhibit particular facts
in their relations to these laws ; and if we choose to call
this procedure the mechanical method or the scientific
method, there is no objection. But we must never forget
that the supreme thing is to know the facts themselves,
whether we can make anything out of them or not. Ex-
planation is desirable when we can get it ; but explanation
by distortion is unprofitable business.

Composition, we said, is the great type of explanation in
the inorganic field. We have the atoms, and by variously
compounding them we explain molecules and masses. The
associational psychology is the analogue of this in the field
of mind. Elementary mental states, as sensations, are as-
sumed to be the only original raw material of consciousness,
and out of them by composition the higher forms of men-
tality are built up. This view is constructed entirely on
the model of physical mechanics, and more especially on
the model of molecular mechanics. The sensations and
their traces in memory are the units of the mental life, and
by their combination they are supposed to explain all the
higher forms. This view finds its most elaborate exposition
in the Herbartian psychology ; and in all its forms compo-
sition is the type of explanation relied on. Compound sen-
sations, groups of sensations, conception masses, are phrases
of constant recurrence.

All this is illusion. It arises from hiding the facts be-
hind physical and spatial metaphors, and then mistaking
the metaphors for the facts. Hence the need of rigorously
inspecting our terms in order to detect any parallax with
the facts. All spatial terms as applied to mind and con-
sciousness must be seen in their figurative character. Things


or events are not in the mind or in consciousness in any
spatial form or relation. They are neither before nor be-
hind, neither to the right nor to the left of one another.
To be sure we use spatial terms, but to fix the meaning, we
have to pass behind the terms to the experience.

If then we ask what being in consciousness means, the
dictionary, and etymology, and the imagination will not
help us. We must return to the experience, and then it
turns out that being in consciousness means what we ex-
perience when we are conscious of something. Objects are
separated and united, not spatially, but consciously and logi-
cally. They are comprehended in the spaceless, partition-
less, unpicturable apprehension of the conscious mind ; but,
as mental events or forms of mental activity, they have no
spatial properties or relations of any kind. Except in a
figurative sense, then, nothing is in consciousness. The ex-
act fact is that we are conscious of certain things ; and this
consciousness admits of no representation in space images.
It is absolutely unique and can only be experienced.

With the vanishing of space forms and relations from the
mental states, the notion of a mental mechanism begins to
grow obscure. When we have distinct things in space we
can easily picture various combinations ; but when the spa-
tial relation is denied we begin to grope as to the meaning
of mechanism. The matter is still worse when doubt is
cast on the substantiality of the component factors and on
their dynamic relations ; and this doubt emerges as soon as
we consider the alleged elementary elements of the mental

What are sensations? Because of the implicit working
of the category of substance, they tend to take on a substan-
tive and even a substantial form. They float vaguely in
unclear thought as a kind of something, mindstuff, units of
consciousness, or some such thing ; and the analogy of molec-


ular mechanics comes to our aid, and the mental mechanism
forthwith becomes a solid reality.

We see how the notion arises, but before we accept it we
must examine it more closely. Are, then, sensations things,
fragments of mindstuff, or elementary substantial units of
mentality? Probably no one would answer in the affirma-
tive when the question is thus barely put. An indefinite
amount of psychological language and theory implies their
thinghood, but a little reflection dispels the illusion. Well,
then, once more, what are sensations ?

Suppose we call them mental states, or affections or mod-
ifications of the sensibility. They certainly are such ; but
what can we make of such sensations in constructing a men-
tal mechanism ? To begin with, the states as occurring, or
as mental events, vanish with their date. They are perish-
ing phantasmagoria without anything abiding in them or
after them. With such data we can construct nothing.

Online LibraryBorden Parker BowneMetaphysics → online text (page 30 of 34)