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case, by contingent, but by universal and necessary connections. The first glance at an innumerable multitude of worlds annihilates my importance as an animal creature that must give back the matter of which it was made to the planet—itself a mere point in the universeafter it has been for a short time, we know not how short, endowed with vital force. The second, on the contrary, exalts my worth as an intelligence infinitely, through my personality, in which the moral law reveals to me a life independent of animal nature and even of the whole universe of sense, at least so far as the end of my existence is determined by this law which is not limited within the conditions and bounds of this life, but goes on into infinitude."*
* Kritik der Praktischen Vernunft: Beschluss: Werke, 8, 312.
MATERIALISTIC OBJECTIONS TO THE EXISTENCE OF
878. The First Materialistic Objection : from Sensation
alism, or the Complete Positivism of Comte. As in the progress of investigation it becomes apparent that the facts both of personality and of nature cannot be accounted for by matter and force alone, and that the existence of some supernatural and hyper-material power must be acknowledged to explain them, the materialist is shut up to the alternative either to recognize some such transcendent power or to return to the complete positivism of Comte, and refuse all recognition of atoms, molecules, ether, cause and force. We suppose that he resorts to the latter position. Against the doctrine that personal beings are spirit he objects that man has knowledge only of the phenomena of sense. This is materialism on its subjective side. Thus Lange says: “Sensationalism is the subjective of which materialism is the objective.” So I H. Fichte: “ Materialism and sensationalism are the same; the latter defined subjectively, as to our sources of knowledge; the former objectively, as to what is known.”*
I have shown in previous discussions that every theory of sensationalism and phenomenalism is a false and inadequate theory of knowledge. To these discussions I may refer as an answer to the objection. If the theory of knowledge is false, the objection founded on it is nullified. It is necessary to add only some considerations bearing directly on the presentation of the theory as subjective materialism, and constituting additional evidence that the theory is inconsistent and untenable.
I. The first answer is that the sensational philosophy or the complete Positivism of Comte is inconsistent with materialism. Materialism asserts the existence, indestructibility and eternity of matter and force. It goes beneath phenomena and finds their essential reality in matter and force. It asserts knowledge of self-existent, absolute being, and the knowledge that that being is matter. Sensationalism is contradicted by all of these assertions.
* Lange: Geschichte des Materialismus, I., 26. I. H. Fichte: Theistische Weltansicht, S. 63.
I have said that the doctrine that knowledge is limited to objects of sense is the subjective side of materialism. It is evident that this subjective side of materialism is in direct contradiction of objective materialism, which asserts the eternity of matter. Whoever accepts the complete positivism of Comte must renounce materialism or else contradict himself. It is thus that Mr. Huxley disclaims materialism. He says: “All that we know about motion is that it is a name for certain changes in the relation of our visual, tactile and muscular sensations; and all that we know about matter is that it is the hypothetical substance of physical phenomena, the assumption of the existence of which is as pure a piece of metaphysical speculation as that of the substance of mind. Our sensations, our pleasures, our pains, and the relations of these make up the sum total of the elements of positive, unquestionable knowledge. We call a large section of these sensations and their relations matter and motion; the rest we term mind and thinking; and experience shows that there is a constant order of succession between some of the former and some of the latter."* He can disclaim being a materialist because he is a complete positivist or sensationalist. And yet. he admits that it is as impossible for a scientist to think without using metaphysics as for a Brahmin to eat and drink without destroying animal life. Metaphysical ideas are at the basis of all scientific thought and knowledge.
Complete Positivism is equally inconsistent with the Spencerian agnosticism, which declares that the belief that absolute being exists is a primitive datum of consciousness, although it is impossible to know what it is.
Both the materialist and the Spencerian agnostic build on those primitive principles of intelligence which, as constituent elements of reason, of themselves imply the existence of the mind and disclose its rational constitution.
Materialism is, however, inconsistent with Spencer's agnosticism. While the latter insists that it is impossible to know what the Absolute is, the materialist explicitly affirms that it is matter and motor-force.
Here are three theories, each excluding the others. A materialist cannot accept the position nor use the arguments of the sensationalist nor those of the agnostic. And yet these three theories are continually confounded and often grouped together under the name of materialism. And the denier of theism is found slipping back and forth from one of these positions to another, using indiscriminately the objections
* Sensation and Sensiferous Organs ; Nineteenth Century : 1879.
peculiar to each. It is important therefore that their distinction and incompatibility be pointed out, in order to expose these subterfuges, whether resorted to in ignorance or in sophistry.
II. Sensationalism, being a false theory of knowledge, is inconsistent with physical science.
In the first place, whoever accepts it as the basis of denying the existence of spirit, must give up the law of the Persistence of Force. Comte rigorously excluded the ideas of cause and force, of atoms, molecules and ether from science. He insisted that if the idea of cause is once admitted, that of a first cause must be admitted with it and theology would be inevitable and legitimate. But at the very time when he was elaborately propounding this doctrine in his Positive Philosophy, the investigations of Mayer and others were already going on which have established the law of the persistence of forcea sort of physical embodiment of the metaphysical principle of causation; have set forth force, which Comte insisted on excluding, as an essential reality of the physical universe and the central topic of physical science; have set up the hypotheses of atoms, molecules and the ether; and have saturated physical science itself with metaphysics and theology. In consequence of this, whoever goes back to sensationalism as the theory of knowledge, finds himself left behind by scientific thought in every direction. Physical science cannot be held in the cerements of sensationalism in which Comte endeavored to embalm it. It goes beneath the phenomena to their essential reality; it reveals the “ thing in itself” of gross matter and its perceptible motions, in vortex-atoms and in ethers, in vibrations, undulations, impacts beyond the range of perception and even of conception; it declares the existence, persistence and indestructibility of matter and force. It goes abroad through all space and backwards and forwards through all time, and reveals the necessary activities and transformations of physical forces. It finds masses, distances, motions and energies measurable and their laws determinable, in accordance with that pure creation of the human mind, mathematics, in which every conclusion is demonstrated. Thus instead of saying that all knowledge is given in sense, we find that the greater part of knowledge transcends sense; instead of saying that sense gives the only certainty, we may almost say, “The farther from sense the greater the certainty.” Accordingly Dr. Youmans says of Physical Science that “its tendency is ever from the material toward the abstract, the ideal, the spiritual."*
Mr. Lewes says: “ The sensational hypothesis is acceptable if by sense we understand sensibility and its laws of operation. This indeed ....
* Correlation and Conservation of Force, p. 11.
is an extension of the term, and obliterates the very distinction insisted on by the other school; but since it includes all psychical phenomena under the rubric of sensibility, it enables psychological analysis to be consistent and exhaustive;" without this change, he admits, “ The reduction of all knowledge to a sensuous origin is absurd.”* That is, he changes the meaning of Sense, so as to include in it all the primitive data of intelligence and the principles regulative of all thought, and then claims that all psychical powers are included in sense.
III. Sensationalism is self-contradictory, and involves difficulties which only the recognition of personal spirit can remove. It starts as a form of materialism. We have knowledge through the senses; that is, we have knowledge of objects of sense and of these alone. The outward object is assumed to exist independent of sense, and sensation itself arises as an impression on the sensorium. And it is affirmed that the outward object existed ages before there was any living sensorium susceptible of receiving impressions or sensations from it. Mind, then, has no reality except as related to the outward or material object. It becomes merely “ the series of our sensations," "a thread of consciousness.” The Ego.is lost in the non-ego. , Even Mill, who transcended the sensationalism of Comte by the recognition of consciousness as a knowledge of internal feelings, is obliged to define mind only as relative to matter; it is “ nothing but the series of our sensations (to which must now be added our internal feelings) as they actually occur, with the addition of infinite possibilities of feeling requiring for their actual realization conditions which may or may not take place, but which as possibilities are always in existence, and many of them present.”+ Mind, therefore, is a series of sensations, and as such, is merely a phenomenon of matter.
But when sensationalism comes to define the outward or material object, it can define it only as an object of sense. Matter exists only as relative to sense. Its only reality is sensation. The reality of matter is only its relation to mind. So Clifford: “This world which I perceive is my perception and nothing more.”† So Moleschott: “Ex
So Mill: “Matter may be defined a Permanent Pos
from him, identifies matter with sensation. Here sensationalism issues in Idealism; the non-ego disappears in the Ego. But not the less, after resolving the material world into sensations, do the sensation
* Problems of Life and Mind. Vol. I., pp. 191, 192, † Mill on Hamilton, I., 253.
Lectures and Essays. Vol. I., p. 288. & Lange: Hist. Materialism; Thomas' Trans. Vol. I., pp. 41, 42. || On Hamilton, I., 243.