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possesses the marvellous power of dominating the physical
and chemical properties and affinities of other matter, of con-
verting this into cells like itself, and of multiplying these and
arranging and distributing them until it has built up the
complete fully developed animal. The germ-cell thus makes
its own organism. Throughout life a process of metabohsm,
of waste and repair is continued ; and according as one or
other is more active, we have growth or degeneration. The
living being is ever actively adapting itself to changes in its
environment. If any part of the organism accidentally
suffers injury, this vital energy which compenetrates the
entire mass at once lays a levy upon the remaming parts and
combines their forces to repair the evil ; and they all show
sympathy and contribute out of their resources, or lessen
their own demands till the damage is made good or the
wound healed. This cycle of life has absolutely no counter-
part in inanimate matter. The conservation of the latter
is effected by a state of changeless repose. If increased
it is by mere external addition or juxtaposition of similar
substance. A mass of lifeless matter possesses no real


unity — no part having more than an accidental connexion
wither influence upon any other part. Even the crystal, on
which advocates of physico-chemical theories of life have so
much insisted, is a mere aggregate of molecules, the well-
being or ill-being of any of which affects not the rest.-

These various features mark off by an impassable
barrier the living organism from dead matter : and
constitute against Ovganicism a cogent proof of the
existence in living beings of a special dominating prin-
ciple or energy superior to the properties and forces of
inanimate substances. The several processes of nutrition,
growth, conservation, and reproduction constitute a group
of operations completely transcending the chemical and
mechanical powers of matter. The innate tendency to
build itself up according to a specific type, to restore
injured or diseased parts, to conserve itself against the
agencies perpetually working for its dissolution, and to
reproduce its kind, manifest an internal principle which
unifies, dominates, and governs the entire existence of
the being. On the strength of the axiom that every
effect must have an adequate cause, we must admit a
special ground for vital phenomena in those material
substances which possess life. It is true, of course, that
life is subject to the conditions imposed on its existence
by the chemical and mechanical properties of matter ;
and that many processes which take place in the living
organism illustrate laws of chemical and mechanical

2 " L'acquisition de la forme chez le cristal n'est en rien
comparable a racquisition de la forme dans I'etre organise. Dans
le premier cas, et ce point est capital, il n'y a pas evolution, acquisition
graduelle, creation progressive de la forme typique definitive : non,
cette forme existe, complete, parfaite des I'origine, des la premiere
apparition du cristal, alors qu'il est microscopique. Cette forme
pent croitre par juxtaposition de cristaux ; mais quelque accrue
qu'elle soit, elle demeure absolument semblable a elle-meme dans
tout le cours de son accroissement. Le cristal en partie brise se
repare mais de la meme fagon qu'il s'est forme : les cristaux sub-
sistants servent d'appel, de centre de cristallisation ; de sorte que
la partie detruite se retablit par juxtaposition. La reparation
du cristal n'amene done pas, comme celle de I'etre vivant, une
modification plus ou moins notable de forme et de structure : elle
n'est jamais imparfaite et relative ; elle est jetee dans le moule
absolu du cristal primitif." (Dr. Chauffard, La Vie, p. 358. Cited
by Coconnier, loc. cit. p. 186.)


action ; but this is quite a different thing from saying
that Hfe is only the result of these properties. The more
we know of chemistry and physics on the one hand,
and the better we understand the nature of ceUular
activity on the other, the more hopeless do physico-
chemical theories of life become.^ We are justified,
then, in assuming a new internal energy, a directing
force which determines and governs the stream of
activities described as the phenomena of life. This
force is what is meant by the so-called '^vegetative sour'
or '^ vital principle :'' and all the arguments proving its
presence in the lower animals a fortiori demonstrate
its existence in man.

We can now establish our second proposition :
(b) In man this vital principle is identical ivith the ratioftal
setitietit soul. The intimate union and mutual inter-
dependence subsisting between the sensuous and vegeta-
tive activities cannot be accounted for on the supposition
that two distinct agents or principles are at work.
Organic changes and sensations arise simultaneously,
and the extinction of vegetative life puts an end to
consciousness. The vital principle is the force which
governs the evolution and development of the organs
of sensibility from the primordial germ cell ; and
pleasurable or painful excitations of these organs react
on the vigour of the vegetative activities. Fear, hope,
joy, anger, may instantaneously affect the action of the
heart, stomach, liver, lungs, or the state of the nervous
system generally ; whilst conversely the atmosphere,
narcotics, the action of the stomach, of the liver,
circulation, and indeed nearly all physiological functions
may modify the colour of our mental life.

^ Cf. Professor Haldane: "To any physiologist who candidly
reviews the progress of the last fifty years it must be perfectly
evident that, so far from having advanced towards a physico-
chemical explanation of life, we are in appearance very much
farther from one than we were fifty years ago. We are now far
more definitely aware of the obstacles to any advance in this
direction, and there is not the slightest indication that they will be
removed, but rather that with further increase of knowledge, and
more refined methods of physical and chemical investigation they
will only appear more and more difficult to surmount." {Nineteenth
Century, 1S98, p. 403.)


In a word, the arguments put forward to reduce the
rational sentient soul to the condition of an aspect or
function of the organism contain this much truth, that
the ultimate root of physical life is identical with the
subject of intelligence, and that the two classes of
activities consequently condition each other. Finally,
if the rational soul in man were a new entity superadded
to the living being already animated by a sentient or
vegetative soul, man would not be a single individual.
He would be no longer essentially one, but two beings.

The facts concerning the origin of life, to which
reference has been made in the present chapter, furnish
another decisive argument against materialistic evolution.
There is an impassable chasm between living and in-
animate substances ; there is another similar division
between sensation and all purely physical phenomena;
and lastly, there is a still greater gulf between the
spiritual activities of self-consciousness and free-volition
on the one side, and all merely sensuous states on the
other. The attitude of men like Huxley and Tyndall
on the problem of life, is an interesting psychological
phenomenon. These writers vehemently insist upon
experience as the only legitimate foundation for belief.
They allow that experience does not afford a shred of
evidence to indicate that life ever arises except from a
living being. And then they conclude that life did arise
spontaneously from dead matter in the distant past !
The theistic alternative would, of course, be intolerable.

Scholastic Definition of Life. — The scholastics defined Hfe
as, activitas qua ens seipsum movet — the activity by whicli a
being moves itself. The word move, however, was understood
in a wide sense as equivalent to all forms of change or
alteration, including the energies of sentiency and intellectual
cognition as well as local motion. The feature insisted on as
essential is the immanent character of the operations. An
immanent action is one which proceeding from an internal
principle does not pass into a foreign subject, but perfects the
agent. All effects of non-living agents are, on the contrary,
transitive. Notwithstanding the multitude of atteuipts made
by successive philosophers and biologists, the definition of the
schoolmen has not been as yet much improved upon.*

* Bichat's definition is well known: "Life is the sum of the
functions which resist death." This is not a very great advance if


Difficulties. — The solution to an objection often raised in
various forms against the doctrine of the last chapter, as well
as against that of the present or of the next, may also be
indicated here. It is argued that a corruptible principle must
be really distinct from an incorruptible one ; but sentient and
vegetative principles are admittedly corruptible; therefore the
rational spirit in man cannot be identical with the root of
inferior Hfe. Or, if it is, then it must be mortal. To this it may
be answered that a soul or vital principle capable of merely
sentient or vegetative activity perishes on the destruction of
the subject which it informs, and is accordingly corruptible ;
but that this is not the case with the root of the inferior species
of Hfe in man. Sentiency and vegetation are not in him
activities of a merely sentient subject. They are, on the
contrary, phenomena of a rational soul endowed with certain
supra-sensuous functions, but also capable of exerting lower
forms of activity. There can be no reason why a superior
principle cannot virtually include such inferior faculties.
Scholastic philosophers have always taught that the virtue of
exerting organic functions is inherent in the human soul, but
that these activities are suspended when the soul is separate
from the body after death. In the case of man, therefore, the
root of sentiency and vegetative life is not corruptible.

It is sometimes urged, that the existence of a struggle
between the rational and sensitive powers shows that both
proceed from diverse roots. The true inference, however, is
the very opposite. The so-called "struggle" is, of course,
not a combat between independent beings within a supposed
arena of the mind. It is one indivisible mind which thinks,
feels, desires, and governs the vegetative processes of the
living being. But precisely because the subject of these
several activities is the same they mutually impede each
other. Violent excitement of any one land naturally
diminishes the energy available for another.

death can only be described as the cessation of life. "Life is the
sum of the phenomena peculiar to organized beings." (Beclard.)
" Life is a centre of intussusceptive assimilative force capable of
reproduction by spontaneous fission." (Owen.) "Life is the two-
fold internal movement of composition and decomposition at once
general and continuous." (De Blainville, Comte, and Robin.) These
definitions, starting from the physiological point of view, aim
merely at summing up the phenomena of vegetative life, and exclude
intellectual activity. Mr. Spencer with his wonted lucidity, defines
life as "the continuous adjustment of internal relations to external


Union of Soul and Body. — We have criticized at
some length (c. xxiii.), the accounts of the union of mind
and body furnished by Monism : we must now turn to
those of Duahsm. Of spirituaHst theories the most
celebrated are : (i) that of Plato, (2) Occasionalism,
(3) Pre-established harmony, (4) the doctrine of Matter
and Form. The first three are all forms of exaggerated
Dualism ; the last alone recognizes the essential unity
of man.

Ultra-dualistic Theories. — (i) The rational soul,
according to Plato, who historically comes first, is a pure
spirit incarcerated in a body for some crime committed
during a former life. (p. 255.) Its relation to the organism
is analogous to that of the rider to his horse ; or of the
pilot to his ship. Since it is not naturally ordained to
inform the body, the soul receives nothing but hindrance
from its partner. This fanciful hypothesis, it is needless
to say, does not receive much favour at the present day.
There is no real evidence of such a pre-natal existence;
and the doctrine would make man not one, but two
beings accidentally conjoined.

(2) Geulincx and Malebranche, logically developing
Descartes' doctrine of the mutual independence of soul
and body (pp. 256 — 259), explain their union by the
theory of Occasionalism or Divine Assistance. Soul
and body are conceived in this system as two opposed

and distinct beings between whom no real interaction
can take place. It is God alone who effects changes
in either. On the occasion of a modification of the
soul He produces an appropriate movement in the
body ; and vice versa. All our sensations, thoughts, and
volitions are immediate results not of the impressions of
material objects upon us, but of God Himself; and
similarly our actions are due not to our own, but to the
Divine Will. W'e have here the theory oi psycho-physical
parallelism plus the Divine Agency. The doctrine of
Occasionalism, however, is not confined by Malebranche
to the interaction of soul and body. No created things
have, in his view, any real efficiency. The First Cause
is the only operative cause.

The establishment of the genuine activity of secondary


causes in general, we leave to the volume on Meta-
physics ;^ here it is enough to point out the errors of
Occasionalism within the sphere of Psychology. This
theory is superior to those criticized in chapter xxiii., at
least in this, that it certainly provides an adequate cause
for the events of life. But in doing so it renders
purposeless the ingenious machinery of the various
sense-organs. It makes illusory the testimony of con-
sciousness to personal causality in the exercise of
volition and self-control. It conflicts with the irre-
sistible conviction, based on the experience of our
whole life, that our sensations are really excited by the
impressions of external objects, and that our volitions
do really cause our physical movements. Finally,
Occasionalism involves the gratuitous assumption of a
continuous miracle, removes responsibility from man,
and makes God the author of sin.

(3) The theory of Pre-established Harmony, in-
vented by Leibnitz, substitutes for the never-ceasing
miracles of Occasionalism a single miraculous act at
the beginning. Soul and body do not really influence
one another, but both proceed like two clocks started
together in a divinely pre-arranged correspondence. Leibnitz's
system is the most thorough and consistent reasoning
out of the theory of psycho-physical parallelism ; and it
excels the hypotheses of Clifford and Hoffding in that it
offers an intelligible explanation of the parallelism, whilst
they give 7wne at all. But it does so by invoking a
miracle. Our objections to this theory are substantially
the same as to the last. In both, the union between
mind and body is accidental, not essential ; and we
have in man really two beings instead of one. *^

^ Cf. Rickaby, pp. 308—313.

^ See also pp. 262 — 264. Another theory, that of "Physical
Influx," constitutes the union of soul and body in their mutual
interaction. This account, however, is either merely a statement
of the fact that they do influence each other, or an explanation
which would dissolve the substantial union into an accidental
relation between two juxtaposed beings. Cudworth invoked the
assistance of a plastic medium — an entity intermediate between
matter and spirit — to solve the problem. But this would merely
double the difficulties.


The Aristotelico-Scholastic Doctrine.— The most
satisfactory theory is the old Peripatetic doctrine. This
explanation was formulated by Aristotle, and later on
adopted by St. Thomas and all the leading Scholastic
philosophers. The soul is described by these writers
as the substantial form of the living being. This being is
conceived as the resultant of two factors, — the one
active and determining, the other passive and deter-
minable. The first is called the Form, the second the
Matter of the being. The general problem of the nature
and relations of Matter and Form, which runs through
the entire Scholastic system of Philosophy, belongs
especially to Cosmology. Here we shall merely offer a
few brief words on the question, and refer the English
reader desirous of obtaining a thorough grasp of the
subject to Father Harper's Metaphysics of the School,
especially Book V. chapters ii. iii.

Aristotle's four Causes. — Aristotle resolves all kinds of
causes into four great classes ; the final cause, the efficient
cause, the formal cause, d.nd the material cause. The last two
are intrinsic, the first two extrinsic to the effect. The final
cause is the end in view — the good for the sake of which a
thing is done. An efficient cause is a being by the real activity
of which another being is brought into existence. The
material cause is the reality out of which the complete bodily
substance is made. The form or formal cause is that reality in
the complete bodily substance which gives to it its proper
being or essential nature. These four species of causes are
easily distinguished in the production of a statue. The
material principle is the iron, bronze, or stone — the stuff out
of which the particular statue is wrought. The formal prin-
ciple is the determining figure or shape, by which the statue
is made to represent Napoleon or Nelson." The efficient
cause is the sculptor, his hammer, chisel, etc. The final
cause is the satisfaction, fame, or money which the artist has
in view in the production of the w^ork.

Scholastic development. — Now, all things are created by
God for His own greater glory. They are manifestations of
His excellence, exhibitions of His power and wisdom ; or, in

'' It should be borne in mind that materia prima never exists as
such ; there is no matter which is in the Scholastic sense actually-
devoid of all form. The bronze, for instance, which stands in the
relation of matter to the Nelsonic form, is conceived as distinguished
from iron or carbon by its own specific form.


the case of intelligent beings, they both manifest and recognize
His excellence. We have thus in God the first efficient
cause, and the ultimate final cause of every creature. Further-
more, in the Scholastic system all material beings are viewed
as the product of two con-created constituent factors — the
one passive and recipient, the other active and determining.
The first is styled the matter, the second the form, and both
are called substantial principles inasmuch as by their coales-
cence they constitute one complete substantial being. ^ The
form is the factor which determines the essential 7iature of
each being. Thence proceed all its specific activities. As in
Aristotle's view the prima materia, the ultimate substratum, is
alike in all substances, their specific differences are due to
dissimilarities of kind in the actuating co-efficient. The dis-
tinctive properties of iron, carbon, and gold have thus their
root in the different formal elements entering into the consti-
tution of each.

The Soul the "Form" of the living being. — In living
organisms the vital principle is the substantial form. It is this
determining factor which defines the essential nature of the
plant or animal ; and from it proceed the activities by which
the being is separated from other species of things, whether
animate or inanimate. A substantial form is accordingly defined
as a determining principle which by its union with the subject that
it actuates constitutes a complete substance of a determinate species.
It should, however, be clearly understood that the proposition,
" The soul is the form of the body," stands on a quite different
footing from the general doctrine of " Matter and Form " as
applied to inanimate substances.

Argument. — It has already been proved that there must
be in each living being, and therefore a fortiori in man, a
vegetative soul, or vital principle, to which is due the natural
unity of activity comprising the phenomena of his life. And
it has been also shown that this principle must be different
from, and superior to, the properties or forces of inanimate
matter. But such a principle must be the substantial form of
the living human being. For, since actio sequitur esse— since
every action of an agent flows from the being of that agent —
the principle which is the root of the natural activity of a
substance must be the determinant of its being and nature.
Consequently, as the vegetative soul is the source of all vital
activities, it must bs the determining or actuating principle of

8 The substantial form differs from the accidental form in the
fact that the one is an essential constituent, the other a mere
accidental mode or determination which conceivably might be
removed without affecting the nature of the substance, e.g., heat.


the living being ; but this is equivalent to saying that it is the
substantial form of the living being.

Or the question may be approached otherwise thus : The
vital principle is really different in nature from its material
co-efficient. Furthermore, the vital principle is not a mere
accidental determination capable of removal whilst the sub-
stance remains complete. On its extinction the nature of the
creature is destroyed, and the living being is changed into a
lifeless aggregate of matter — a substance or substances of
completely different species. The vegetative soul is thus a
substantial principle upon which the very being of the sub-
stance depends. In other words, by its union with its material
co-efficient the vegetative soul constitutes the active living
being. That is, the vegetative soul, or vital principle, is the
substantial form of the living body.

If the vegetative soul in living beings is the form of the
body, it follows at once that in man, since the vegetative and
rational soul are identical, the latter nmst be the substantial
form of the human body. The rational soul must also be the
only substantial form in man. For man is one, complete
individual being, specifically distinct from all other beings.
Were the human body, however, actuated by more than one
substantial form, man would be, not one, but an aggregate of
individuals, since each substantial form would constitute
with its subject a complete substantial being of determinate

The Form is source of Unity and Identity. — It is on the
permanence of the substantial form that the identity of the
individual depends. The material constituents of the living
body are nearly all changed, as we have before stated, in the
course of a few years, yet we affirm that the man of sixty is
identical with the boy of six : the soul has persisted
unchanged. It is the same simple informing principle which
reduces the different parts and organs of the body to the
unity of a single being. Neither a bale of cotton nor a
bucket of water forms one being ; each is but a mere aggregate
of parts. Even a watch or a steam-ship — although the parts
are unified by its end or purpose — wants the unity of being
which is exhibited in man, in the brute, and in the plant.
Though working towards a common end, all the parts of the
machine retain their chemical and physical properties in
complete vigour and mutual independence. In the living
being, on the other hand, there is no such isolation. The
various parts are compenetrated by the informing principle,
their individuaUty is merged, their several tendencies unified,
their natural properties transformed and subordinated by this
dominating and enlivening force.


Complete and incomplete Substances. — Both Matter and
Form are sometimes called substances by the Schoolmen,
inasmuch as their coalescence results in a substantial being.
Except the human soul, however, no forma or materia prima
can exist per se apart. The epithet incomplete is occasionally-
used of inferior forms to express this circumstance ; this
adjective more properly, however, connotes the fact that the
union of these factors gives rise to one complete composite
substance. Even the human soul, though capable of subsist-

Online LibraryMichael MaherPsychology: empirical and rational → online text (page 56 of 63)