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Congress of Arts and Science : universal exposition, St. Louis, 1904 online

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from essentially different presuppositions. Lotze distinguishes in
pure logic between postulates, hypotheses, and fictions. He does
not refer the term "postulate" exclusively to the causal law which
governs our entire empirical thought in its formation of hypotheses,
but gives the term a wider meaning. " Postulates " are only corollaries



382 METHODOLOGY OF SCIENCE

from the inductive fundamental form of all hypothesis construction,
and correspond essentially to what we have called general or heuristic
hypotheses. His determination of the validity of these postulates,
however, implies the position to be assigned tq the causal law and
therefore not to those heuristic hypotheses. " The postulate is not an
assumption that we can make or refrain from making, or, again, in
whose place we can substitute another. It is rather an (absolutely)
necessary assumption without which the content of the view at
issue would contradict the laws of our thought." ^

Still the decision that we have reached is not on this account in
favor of rationalism, as this is represented for instance by Kant and
his successors down to our own time, and professed by Lotze in the
passage quoted, when he speaks of an absolute necessity for thought.
We found that the causal law requires a necessary connection be-
tween events given us in constant sequence. It is not, however,
on that account a law of our thought or of a "pure understanding"
which would be absolutely independent of all experience. When we
take into consideration the evolution of the organic world of which
we are members, then we must say that our intellect, that is, our
ideation and with it our sense perception, has evolved in us in ac-
cordance with the influences to which we have been subjected. The
common elements in the different contents of perception which have
arisen .out of other psychical elements, seemingly first in the brute
world, are not only an occasion, but also an efficient cause, for the
evolution of our processes of reproduction, in which our memory
and imagination as well as our knowledge and thought, psycholog-
ically considered, come to pass. The causal law, which the critical
analysis of the material-scientific methods shows to be a funda-
mental 'condition of empirical thought, in its requirement that the
events stand as causes and effects in necessary connection, or real
dependence, comprehends these uniform contents of perception
only in the way peculiar to our thought.

Doubtless our thought gives a connection to experience through
this its requirement which experience of itself could not offer. The
necessary connection of effect with cause, or the real dependence of
the former upon the latter, is not a component of possible percep-
tion. This requirement of our thought does not, however, become
thereby independent of the perceptive elements in the presupposi-
tions involved in the uniformity of sequence. The a priori in the
sense of "innate ideas," denoting either these themselves or an ab-
solutely a 'priori conformity to law that underlies them, for instance,
our "spontaneity," presupposes in principle that our "soul" is an
independently existing substance in the traditional metaphysical
sense down to the time of Locke. Kant's rationalistic successors,
.„;.-*#' ^Logic, 1874, buch 11, kap. viii.



.^



CONTENT AND VALIDITY OF THE CAUSAL LAW 383

for the most part, lost sight of the fact that Kant had retained these
old metaphysical assumptions in his interpretation of the tran-
scendental conditions of empirical interaction and in his cosmo-
logical doctrine of freedom. The common root of the sensibility and
of the understanding as the higher faculty of knowledge remains for
Kant the substantial force of the soul, which expresses itself (just as
in Leibnitz) as vis passiva and vis activa. The modern doctrine of
evolution has entirely removed the foundation from this rationalism
which had been undermined ever since Locke's criticism of the tra-
ditional concept of substance.

To refer again briefly to a second point in which the foregoing
results differ from the Kantian rationalism as well as from empiricism
since Hume: The postulate of a necessary connection between
cause and effect, as we have seen, in no way implies the consequence
that the several inductions lose the character of hypotheses. This
does not follow merely from the fact that all inductions besides the
causal law include the hypothetical thought that the same causes
will be given in the reality not yet observed as appear in that already
observed. The hypothetical character of all inductive inferences is
rather revealed through the circumstance that in the causal postulate
absolutely nothing is contained regarding what the efficacy in the
causes is, and how this efficacy arises.

Only such consequences of the foregoing interpretation of the
causal law and of its position as one of the bases of all scientific con-
struction of hypotheses may be pointed out, in conclusion, as will
help to make easier the understanding of the interpretation itself.

The requirement of a necessary connection, or dependence, is
added by our thought to the reproductive and recognitive presup-
positions that are contained in the uniformity of the sequence of
events. If this necessary connection be taken objectively, then
it reveals as its correlate the requirement of a real dependence of
effect upon cause. We come not only upon often and variously
used rationalistic thoughts, but also upon old and unchangeable
components of all empirical scientific thought, when we give the
name "force " to the efficacy that underlies causes. The old postu-
late of a dynamic intermediary between the events that follow one
another constantly retains for us, therefore, its proper meaning.
We admit without hesitation that the word " force " suggests fetish-
ism more than do the words "cause" and "effect;" but we do not
see how this can to an}'- degree be used as a counter-argument. All
words that were coined in the olden time to express thoughts of the
practical Weltanschauung have an archaic tang. Likewise all of our
science and the greater part of our nomenclature have arisen out of
the sphere of thought contained in the practical Weltanschauung,




'^^-^y^^ife*



384 METHODOLOGY OF SCIENCE

which centred early in fetishism and related thoughts. If, then, we
try to free our scientific terminology from such words, we must
seek refuge in the Utopia of a lingua universalis, in short, we must
endeavor to speak a language which would make science a secret
of the few. Or will any one seriously maintain that a thought which -
belongs to an ancient sphere of mental life must be false for the
very reason that it is ancient?

In any case, it is fitting that we define more closely the sense
in which we are to regard forces as the dynamic intermediaries of
uniform occurrence. Force cannot be given as a content of perception
either through our senses or through our consciousness of self;
in the case of the former, not in our kinesthetic sensations, in the
case of the latter, not in our consciousness of volition. Volition
would not include a consciousness of force, even though we were
justified in regarding it as a simple primitive psychosis, and were not
compelled rather to regard it as an intricate collection of feelings
and sensations as far as these elementary forms of consciousness are
connected in thought with the phenomena of reaction. Again,
forces cannot be taken as objects that are derived as possible percep-
tions or after the analogy of possible perceptions. The postulate of
our thought through which these forces are derived from the facts
of the uniform sequence of events, reveals them as limiting notions
(Grenzbegriffe) , as specializations of the necessary connection be-
tween cause and effect, or of the real dependence of the former upon
the latter; for the manner of their causal intermediation is in no way
given, rather they can be thought of only as underlying our percep-
tions. They are then in fact qualitates occultae ; but they are such
only because the concept of quality is taken from the contents of
our sense and self perception, which of course do not contain the
necessary connection required by our thought. Whoever, therefore,
requires from the introduction of forces new contents of percep-
tion, for instance, new and fuller mechanical pictures, expects the
impossible.

The contempt with which the assumption of forces meets, on
the part of those who make this demand, is accordingly easily
understood, and still more easily is it understood, if one takes into
consideration what confusion of concepts has arisen through the use
of the term "force" and what obstacles the assumption of forces has
put in the way of the material sciences. It must be frankly admitted
that this concept delayed for centuries both in the natural and moral
sciences the necessary analysis of the complicated phenomena
forming our data. Under the influence of the "concept philosophy "
it caused, over and over again, the setting aside of the problems
of this analytical empirical thought as soon as their solution had
been begun. This misuse cannot but make suspicious from the very



CONTENT AND VALIDITY OF THE CAUSAL LAW 385

start every new form of maintaining that forces underlie causa-
tion.

However, misuse proves as little here against a proper use as it
does in other cases. Moreover, the scruples that we found arising
from the standpoint of empiricism against the assumption of forces
are not to the point. In assuming a dynamic intermediary between
cause and effect, we are not doubling the problems whose solution is
incumbent upon the sciences of facts, and still less is it true that our
assumption must lead to a logical circle. That is, a comparison
with the ideas of the old concept philosophy, which even in the
Aristotelian doctrine contain such a duplication, is not to the point.
Those ideas are hypostasized abstractions which are taken from the
uniformly coexisting characteristics of objects. Forces, on the other
hand, are the imperceivable relations of dependence which we must
presuppose between events that follow one another uniformly, if the
uniformity of this sequence is to become for us either thinkable or
conceivable. The problems of material scientific research are not
doubled by this presupposition of a real dynamic dependence, be-
cause it introduces an element not contained in the data of percep-
tion which give these problems their point of departure. This pre-
supposition does not renew the thought of an analytic rational
connection between cause and effect which the concept philosophy
involves; on the contrary, it remains true to the principle made
practical by Hume and Kant, that the real connection between
causes and their effects is determinable only through experience,
that is, empirically and synthetically through the actual indication
of the events of uniform sequence. How these forces are constituted
and work, we cannot know, since our knowledge is confined to the
material of perception frorn which as a basis presentation has de-
veloped into thought. The insight that we have won from the limit-
ing notion of force helps us rather to avoid the misuse which has
been made of the concept of force. A fatal circle first arises, when we
use the unknowable forces and not the knowable events for the
purpose of explanation, that is, when we cut off short the empirical
analysis which leads ad infinitum. To explain does not mean to
deduce the known from the unknown, but the particular from the
general. It was therefore no arbitrary judgment, but an impulse
conditioned by the very nature of our experience and of our thought,
that made man early regard the causal connection as a dynamic
one, even though his conception was of course indistinct and mixed
with confusing additions.

The concept of force remains indispensable also for natural scien-
tific thought. It is involved with the causal law in every attempt to
form an hypothesis, and accordingly it is already present in every
description of facts which goes by means of memory or abstraction



386 METHODOLOGY OF SCIENCE

beyond the immediately given content of present perception. In
introducing it we have in mind, moreover, that the foundations of
every possible interpretation of nature possess a dynamic character.
Just because all empirical thought, in this field as well, is subordinate
to the causal law. This must be admitted by any one who assumes
as indispensable aids of natural science the mechanical figures
through which we reduce the events of sense perception to the mo-
tion of mass particles, that is, through which we associate these
events witlv the elements of our visual and tactual perception. All
formulations of the concept of mass, even when they are made so
formal as in the definition given by Heinrich Hertz, indicate dynamic
interpretations. Whether the impelling forces are to be thought of
in particular as forces acting at a distance or as forces acting through
collision depends upon the answer to the question whether we have
to assume the dynamic mass particles as filling space discontinuously
or continuously. The dynamic basis of our interpretation of nature
will be seen at once by any one who is of the opinion that we can make
the connection of events intelligible without the aid of mechanical
figures, for instance, in terms of energy.

Thus it results that we interpret the events following one another
immediately and uniformly as causes and effects, by presupposing
as fundamental to them forces that are the necessary means of their
uniformity of connection. What we call "laws" are the judgments
in which we formulate these causal connections.

A second and a third consequence need only be mentioned here.
The hypothesis that interprets the mutual connection of psychical
and physical vital phenomena as a causal one is as old as it is natural.
It is natural, because even simple observations assure us that the
mental content of perception follows uniformly the instigating
physical stimulus and the muscular movement, the instigating
mental content which we apprehend as will. We know, however,
that the physical events which, in raising the biological problem, we
have to set beside the psychical, do not take place in the periphery of
our nervous system and in our muscles, but in the central nervous
system. But we must assume, in accordance with all the psycho-
physiological data which at the present time are at our disposal, that
these events in our central nervous system do not follow the cor-
responding psychical events, but that both series have their course
simultaneously. We have here, therefore, instead of the real relation
of dependence involved in constant sequence, a real dependence of
the simultaneity or correlative series of events. This would not, of
course, as should be at once remarked, tell as such against a causal
connection between the two separate causal series. But the contested
parallelistic interpretation of this dependence is made far more
probable through other grounds. These are in part corollaries of the



CONTENT AND VALIDITY OF THE CAUSAL LAW 387

law of the conservation of energy, rightly interpreted, and in part
epistemological considerations. Still it is not advisable to burden
methodological study, for instance, the theory of induction, with
these remote problems; and on that account it is better for our
present investigation to subordinate the psychological interdepend-
ences to the causal ones in the narrower sense.
- The final consequence, too, that forces itself upon our attention
is close at hand in the preceding discussion. The tradition prevailing
since Hume, together with its inherent opposition to the inter-
pretation of causal connection given by the concept philosophy,
permitted us to make the uniform sequences of events the basis of
our discussion. In so doing, however, our attention had to be called
repeatedly to one reservation. In fact, only a moment ago, in allud-
ing to the psychological interdependences, we had to emphasize
the uniform sequence. Elsewhere the arguments depended upon
the uniformity that characterizes this sequence; and rightly, for the
reduction of the causal relation to the fundamental relation of the
sequence, of events is merely a convenient one and not the only pos-
sible one. As soon as we regard the causal connection, along with
the opposed and equal reaction, as an interconnection, then cause
and effect become, as a matter of principle, simultaneous. The sep-
aration of interaction from causation is not justifiable.

In other ways also we can so transform every causal relation
that cause and effect must be regarded as simultaneous. Every
stage, for instance, of the warming of a stone by the heat of the
sun, or of the treaty conferences of two states, presents an effect
that is simultaneous with the totality of the acting causes. The
analysis of a cause that was at first grasped as a whole into the
multiplicity of its constituent causes and the comprehension of
the constituent causes into a whole, which then' presents itself as
the effect, is a necessary condition of such a type of investigation.
This conception, which is present already in Hobbes, but especially
in Herbart's "method of relations," deserves preference always
where the purpose in view is not the shortest possible argumentation
but the most exact analysis.

If we turn our attention to this way of viewing the problem, —
not, however, in the form of Herbart's speculative method, — we
shall find that the results which we have gained will jn no respect be
altered. We do, however, get a view beyond. From it we can find
the way to subordinate not only the uniform sequence of events,
but also the persistent characteristics and states with their mutual
relations, under the extended causal law. In so doing, we do not
fall back again into the intellectual world of the concept philosophy.
We come only to regard the 'persisting coexistences — in the physical
field, the bodies, in the psychical, the subjects of consciousness — as



388 METHODOLOGY OF SCIENCE

systems or modes of activity. The thoughts to which such a doctrine
leads are accordingly not new or unheard of. The substances have
always been regarded as sources of modes of activity. We have here
merely new modifications of thoughts that have been variously de-
veloped, not only from the side of empiricism, but also from that
of rationalism. They carry with them methodologically the implica-
tion that it is possible to grasp the totality of reality, as far as it
reveals uniformities, as a causally connected whole, as a cosmos.
They give the research of the special sciences the conceptual bases for
the wider prospects that the sciences of facts have through hard
labor won for themselves. The subject of consciousness is unitary as
far as the processes of memory extend, but it is not simple. On the
contrary, it is most intricately put together out of psychical com-
plexes, themselves intricate and out of their relations; all of which
impress upon us, psychologically and, in their mechanical correlates,
physiologically, an ever-recurring need for further empirical analysis.
Among the mechanical images of physical reality that form the
foundation of our interpretation of nature, there can finally be but
one that meets all the requirements of a general hypothesis of the
continuity of kinetic connections. With this must be universally
coordinated the persistent properties or sensible modes of action
belonging to bodies. The mechanical constitution of the compound
bodies, no matter at what stage of combination and formation, must
be derivable from the mechanical constitution of the elements of this
combination. Thus our causal thought compels us to trace back
the persistent coexistences of the so-called elements to combin-
ations whose analysis, as yet hardly begun, leads us on likewise to
indefinitely manifold problems. Epistemologically we come finally
to a universal phenomenological dynamism as the fundamental
basis of all theoretical interpretation of the world, at least funda-
mental for our scientific thought, and we are here concerned with
no other.



SECTION E — ETHICS



SECTION E — ETHICS



{Hall 6, September 23, 10 a. m.)

Chairmajst: Professor George H. Palmer, Harvard University.
Speakers: Professor William R. Sorley, University of Cambridge.
Professor Paul Hensel, University of Erlangen.
Secretary: Professor F. C. Sharp, University of Wisconsin.



THE RELATIONS OF ETHICS

BY WILLIAM RITCHIE SORLEY

[William Ritchie Sorley, Knightbridge Professor of Moral Philosopliy in the
University of Cambridge; Fellow of the British Academy . b. Selldrk, Scot-
land, 1855. M.A. Edinburgh; Litt.D. Cambridge; Hon. LL.D. Edinburgh.
Post-Graduate, Shaw Fellow, Edinburgh University, 1878; Fellow, Trinity
College, Cambridge, 1883; Lecturer, Local Lectures Syndicate and for the
Moral Science Board, Cambridge, 1882-86; Deputy for the Professor of
Philosophy, University College, London, 1886-87; Professor of Philosophy,
University College, Cardiff, 1888-94; Regius Professor Moral Philosophy,
Aberdeen, 1894-1900. Author of Ethics of Naturalism, 1885 (new ed. 1904);
Mining Royalties, 1889; Recent Tendencies in Ethics, 1904; Edition of
Adamson Development of Modern Philosophy, 1903.]

There are many departments of inquiry whose scope is so well
defined by the consensus of experts that one may proceed, almost
without preliminary, to mark off the boundaries of one science from
other departments, to investigate the relations in which it stands
to them, and to exhibit the place which each occupies in the whole
scheme of human knowledge. In other departments opinion differs
not only regarding special problems and results, but concerning the
whole nature of the science and its relation to connected subjects.
The study of ethics still belongs to this latter group. In it there is no
consensus of experts. Competent scholars hold diametrically opposed
views as to its scope. They differ not merely in the answers they
give to ethical questions, but in their views as to what the fundamen-
tal question of ethics is. And this opposition of opinion as to its
nature is connected with a difference of view regarding the relation
of ethics to the sciences. By many investigators it is set in line
with the sciences of biology, psychology, and sociology; and its
problems are formulated and discussed by the application of the same
historical method as those sciences employ. On the other hand, it is
maintained that ethics implies and requires a concept so different
from the concepts used by the historical and natural sciences as to
give its problem an altogether distinct character and to indicate



392 ETHICS

for it a far more significant position in the whole scheme of human
thought.

The question of the relation of ethics to the sciences implies a view
of the nature of ethics itself and, in particular, of the fundamental
concept used in ethical judgments. If the nature of this concept and
its relation to the concepts employed in other branches of inquiry
can be determined, the relations of ethics will become clear of them-
selves. The problem of this paper will receive its most adequate
solution — so far as the time at my disposal permits — by an in-
dependent inquiry into the nature of the ethical concept in relation
to the concepts used in other sciences.

The immediate judgments of experience fall into two broadly
contrasted classes, which may be described in brief as judgments
of fact and judgments of worth. The former are the foundations
on which the whole edifice of science (as the term is commonly used)
is built. Science has no other object than to understand the relations
of facts as exhibited in historical sequence, in causal interconnection,
or in the logical interdependence which may be discovered amongst
their various aspects. In its beginnings it may have arisen as an aid
to the attainment of practical purposes: it is still everywhere yoked
to the chariot of man's desires and aims. But it has for long
vindicated an independent position for itself. It may be turned to
what uses you will; but its essential spirit stands aloof from these
uses. It has one interest only, — to know what happens and how.
Otherwise it is indifferent to all purposes alike. It studies with
equal mind the slow growth of a plant or the swift destruction
wrought by the torpedo, the reign of a Caligula or of a Victoria; it
takes no side, but observes and describes all " just as if the question



Online LibraryMo.) Congress of Arts and Science (1904 : Saint LouisCongress of Arts and Science : universal exposition, St. Louis, 1904 → online text (page 43 of 68)