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16: Purpose

MONISTIC theories have, as has been already seen, great difficulties to meet in dealing with the facts described by the terms purpose and freedom. It is hard for them to interpret the world as through and through purposive without at the same time giving a theistic colour to their world-view, and yet it is impossible to deny that purpose is manifested at least by human beings, and is thus a factor in the course of the world as a whole. Freedom is dealt with more ruthlessly. It implies a certain spontaneity and independence on the part of finite minds, and it is therefore dismissed as illusory. With the theistic view, on the other hand, both conceptions are closely connected; for the theistic argument already suggested they are essential postulates; and it is desirable, before proceeding further, to elucidate the meaning and justify the use of both. The two conceptions are intimately related to one another; but we must begin by considering them apart, and purpose will be taken first.

Purpose is contrasted with mechanism. And yet every machine is purposive. A machine, however, is something constructed by intelligent art; its purpose lies outside it and is seen in the work which it performs. What it does is a result simply of the structure and relation of its parts and the motor power with which it is supplied; and it is called purposive because it has been put together with a view to this performance. The purpose is outside the mechanism. When we speak of certain processes in nature, or of nature as a whole, as mechanical, we are looking upon the processes as due to these same factors, namely, the structure and relation of the parts of the system and the energy belonging to it; but in this case we postulate nothing regarding an intelligence, either outside or inside the system, which determines its mode of operation. Given an isolated system of this sort, a knowledge of its constituent factors at any moment, if, it were complete enough, would enable the expert mathematician to trace its past history and anticipate each stage of its future condition. If the system is not isolated but played upon by external forces, then knowledge of these forces in addition would enable him to predict the result. A purposive system cannot be described completely in the same terms; in this case something else has to be taken into account—the end towards which it strives, whether this end be present to that system as a conscious design, as in the case of human and deliberate purposes, or whether we have to gather it from observation of the actual working of the living organism.

The mechanical explanation is attractive both by its simplicity and by its power of describing and anticipating events; and, accordingly, attempts have often been made to extend its application to the vital systems commonly regarded as purposive, and to show that they also, if thoroughly analysed, could be reduced to terms of mechanism. By treating consciousness as an epiphenomenon, the same mode of explanation is applied to the whole realm of existing things. As a result we reach a view of reality which is throughout open to mathematical calculation and from which purpose is entirely excluded.

From the point of view of scientific and practical manipulation the great advantages of such a scheme are obvious. It gives a point of view from which the whole may be regarded, and it puts into our hands an instrument by which, if the system of things at any time is known to us, we can tell what it has been or will be at any other time, and can do so without reference to anything outside this system of interacting forces. These advantages, however, are gained only at a price. Strictly taken, the mechanical system is a purely abstract system, and it deals with entities such as mass-points which are not known to exist, but are concepts formed in the interests of its descriptive scheme. The scheme fits the existing universe so far, but only so far. It provides an abstract formula to which actual movements within the world are found to conform within limits; it expresses quantitative aspects only, and ignores the qualitative differences of things. Now in the actual world, as experienced, different things react differently to the same impressed force; and these different reactions become known to us only by means of observation and experiment. On this account the method of the experimental sciences is fundamentally distinguished from that of mechanics. It is the familiar distinction of inductive from deductive reasoning. Both methods are in constant use. Mechanical principles apply to the whole of nature, though they fail to describe all the which interest us; and mathematical expression remains the ideal to which an approximation is made by every success of scientific analysis in referring a qualitative difference to combinations of elements which are qualitatively alike.

In this way it comes about that the term mechanical or mechanistic is often used to denominate something much less abstract than the mechanical scheme strictly so called. It is applied not merely to the description of the movements of mass-points (or other hypothetical entities of mechanics) but also to the description of the behaviour of the actual bodies or substances immediately known to the observer. The mechanical or mechanistic theory of life, for instance, does not profess to give an account of vital processes in terms of pure mechanism. It is a physico-chemical and not a purely mechanical theory, for it does not attempt to demonstrate that all qualitative differences are resolvable into quantitative. It is important to notice this change of meaning in the term mechanical, as it brings out the limits to the power of calculation which are introduced by the admission of quality. If two forces meet at a point and their magnitude and direction are known, the magnitude and direction of the resultant force can be calculated exactly. But his knowledge of the separate gases does not at present enable a chemist to predict that the synthesis of H2 with O will produce a substance which acts as water acts. For this power of prediction he depends upon former experience, coupled with the postulate of the uniformity of nature. At the same time experimental tests bring out certain quantitative relations between the elements and the compound, and they tend to confirm the law of the conservation of energy. Thus mechanical principles are not set aside by the result of the experiment; but they do not account for it or even describe it completely.

Mechanism, strictly taken, is not concerned with causation as assumed in the experimental sciences. It is a deductive system, and when it enables us to predict consequences it does so independently of similar experience in the past. On the other hand, when dealing with the more complex phenomena of nature, our predictive power depends upon previous experience of like causes and their effects. Hume was quite right when he said that “if we reason a priori, anything may appear able to produce anything. The falling of a pebble may, for aught we know, extinguish the sun, or the wish of a man control the planets in their orbits1.” It is by means of experience that we learn the tendency of one natural event to be followed by another event of a definite kind.

The advantage of the mechanical theory lies in the power which it gives to calculate and predict; but this power is limited to the quantitative aspects of phenomena. The predictive power possessed by the natural sciences is not limited in this way, for the experience on which they rely gives knowledge of qualities and their changes; and their ability to anticipate results depends, in the first place, on the postulate of the uniformity of nature, and, secondly, on the actual degree of similarity which has been found to exist between successive events in past experience. The so-called mechanical theory of life is mechanical only in its quantitative aspects; as regards the qualitative aspects of vital phenomena, it is empirical. It is only in a wider and somewhat loose sense that the theory is called mechanical or (perhaps better) mechanistic.

Even in this wider sense of the term, the mechanistic theory encounters a new difficulty when applied to the facts of life. It is not that any fundamental principles of mechanism, or the axiom of the conservation of energy, cease to be valid. There is no sufficient evidence for the destruction or creation of energy in an organic system any more than in an inorganic system. Nor is the difference due to our inability to predict, except on empirical grounds, the nature of the effect which a given combination of factors will produce. It is true that the nature of life could not be predicted by a chemist from his knowledge of the elements combined in protoplasm, but he is still unable to predict the properties of water from a knowledge of the properties of hydrogen and of oxygen. The new difficulty lies in the peculiarity of the behaviour of the living organism. Both the cell and the living body which consists of many cells build up, maintain, and reproduce a certain system, and do so by assimilating material from their environment and by rejecting waste products. The living system persists throughout the gradual change of any or all of the material particles which constitute it, and the characteristic activities by which it achieves this result can be understood only if we look upon them as directed to this end. The biologist—however mechanistic his theory may be—can never dispense with this reference to an end in his descriptions. He constantly employs a concept which is irrelevant in physical and chemical descriptions. The distinctive character of vital phenomena is brought out by the familiar truth that, in spite of age-long efforts in the laboratory, life proceeds only from life. A living body or a living cell may be deprived of this peculiar property we call life; but the life once gone cannot be restored out of the constituents.

As before, therefore, mechanism in the strict sense is concerned only with the quantities and transformations of matter and of energy in the organic system. It is verified by observations which go to show that the organism cannot expend energy which it does not possess. It says nothing as to the mode in which the organic activities will be exercised. In the wider meaning of mechanism, which includes physico-chemical concepts, further prediction is possible regarding the material constituents of the organism and their behaviour. The new fact, which distinguishes life and which physico-chemical concepts do not describe, is the direction of this behaviour towards the maintenance and development of the vital system. Vital activities are intelligible when viewed under this concept; they are not intelligible without it. Vital activities may indeed be predicted by the observer, as chemical reactions may be predicted; but in predicting them one has to regard more than antecedent phenomena; the point of view is not that of efficient causation only. One has to take account of the vital system which they subserve and which they have to establish and maintain. They are understood only by means of the concept of end or purpose.

When we pass from the merely biological level to that of the actions of conscious and intelligent beings, a further fact meets us—not merely the end achieved, but the idea of the end as it is present in consciousness. The end is not merely a result towards which the various reactions of the organism concentrate; it is the fulfilment of a purpose already present in the consciousness of the subject. Here the sequence of events is one step further removed from capability of being adequately described in terms either of mechanism proper or of physical causation. Mechanism applies as before; it can equate the energy in the consequent with the energy in the antecedent; but it goes no further in enabling us to predict the mode or direction of the conscious organism's behaviour. In conscious as in other vital activities we must look to the end in order to understand them; and in the organisms which are conscious, unlike other organisms, the activity may be that of realising an idea or purpose which as a mental fact preceded and anticipated the result. Now, this result cannot be predicted by the observer either by application of physico-chemical generalisations, or on the ground of a tendency to establish and maintain the biological system. So far as prediction is possible, it depends upon knowledge of the individual's mental or subjective system—of his disposition, ruling ideas, and dominant desires—a system which cannot be disclosed by the instruments of the natural sciences.

There is no need, to enter here upon the efforts to minimise the importance of this ideal system by treating it either as an epiphenomenon—a mere otiose accompaniment of neural changes—or as a series which runs parallel with material changes. These speculative hypotheses, even if better established, would not alter the fact that in this region the ability to describe and to predict fails the mechanical theory almost completely—whether we take the mechanical theory in its stricter or in its wider meaning. And it was only in virtue of its ability to describe and to predict that the mechanical theory claimed acceptance. As a theory of reality, therefore—as a point of view for understanding the world—it proves itself inadequate; and it loses nothing of its real value by being confined to the quantitative aspects of physical change, which are its own domain and mark its proper limits.

The term purpose has been used in describing the actions of a system when they cannot be understood through their antecedents alone, and without reference to the end which they tend to bring about. Activity of this kind is exhibited by all living beings: the normal vital processes tend to the maintenance and perpetuation of the organism and cannot be understood without regard to this end. The end in all cases seems to be the object to the attainment of which the activity is directed; but the mode of operation varies conspicuously according as it is or is not accompanied by a consciousness of the direction or of the end. The vital processes of the plant and the deliberate plans of man are alike purposive; but in the former we have no evidence of the presence of an idea guiding the series of movements which takes place, whereas in our own experience we have an immediate consciousness of such an idea. These are therefore different types of process, both of them purposive. It is possible to regard each of them as valid for a different region of facts. It is also possible, however, to regard one of them as more fundamental than the other, so that the latter may be reducible to or in some way accounted for by means of the former; and in this case the question which of the two is fundamental will become the question whether we are to explain the movement of things by consciousness or by the unconscious.

The two views have certain points in common. In both cases the mode of explanation is opposed to the mechanical. In the mechanical theory, and in the view of efficient causation also, the present and future are explained solely by the past. In so far as action is purposive, it cannot be explained without reference to the future; there may be no idea of what is about to be in the subject whose activity is under investigation, but there must be such an idea present in the mind of the investigator; his explanation involves it; it is through the future as well as the past that he understands the present. The wider the system of things which he conceives under the idea of purpose, the more does he tend to bring the temporal process into a unity in which past, present, and future are interrelated. On the other hand, in mechanism and efficient causation, the explanation of each stage is sought simply in its antecedent; and this antecedent depends in the same way on a previous stage, and so on indefinitely. The mode of explanation is thus committed to an indefinite regress, unless it can establish a circular process; and the mechanical law of the degradation of energy forbids this, for it shows the impossibility of the recurrence of the same condition, apart from interference from without the system. On the other hand, the attainment of purpose gives a certain unity to the whole series of movements in time which cooperate towards that attainment: the end is the realisation of something somehow present from the beginning.

Further, it appears that this unity of the whole process is, in every organism, due to an internal source—to the purpose, as we call it, which conceives the end or at least directs action towards its attainment. And this brings out another point in which unconscious and conscious purpose agree and which distinguishes them from mechanical and inorganic movements. The re-action of inorganic material to an external force varies according to its physical and chemical constitution; but in the case of an organism there is something more than this. The impressed force is a stimulus or occasion for the release of an internal impulse towards maintaining the system or (as it may be with conscious beings) the ideal of its life. The impulse has an inner origin, and, although surrounded by external forces, it does not itself admit of spatial determination.

Vital activity, however conceived, thus differs from inorganic movements. But behind the similarities which distinguish all its forms, there lies the profound difference marked by the presence or absence of consciousness of the end. Of conscious purpose we have immediate experience; unconscious purpose is a concept inferred from the mode of operation of other organisms which display evidence of working towards an end, but do not display any evidence of possessing an idea of that end. It is therefore difficult to form a clear concept of the nature of the latter process. It is defined negatively—by the absence of the idea which is always present in purpose as experienced. And it is conceived as an intermediate stage between two better known extremes. We can understand mechanism owing to the simplicity of the ideas involved; we have immediate acquaintance with conscious purpose. Between the two lies something hypothetical or at best obscure: the purposive process which defies explanation as a form of physical causation, but lacks a factor essential to purpose as directly known.

Nevertheless, unconscious purpose has been taken as fundamental in the explanation of the process in the world, intelligence being given a subordinate and dependent rôle.

This view is one aspect of the anti-intellectualist movement in philosophy that began with Schopenhauer and finds its most distinguished present exponent in M. Bergson. According to Schopenhauer, will is the thing-in-itself, the reality which underlies efficient causation2 and for which the accompaniment of intelligence is unessential3. Similarly, M. Bergson holds to the fundamental reality of a vital impetus, which operates independently of any ideal factor. The fact is differently named; but what is in view seems in both cases to be essentially the same as what I have called purpose, when that term is not taken as implying consciousness. And the term may be retained. It is also held by Schopenhauer and by Bergson that will or vital impulse is known intuitively and in a different way from ordinary objects. Whatever is object, says Schopenhauer, is thereby appearance not thing-in-itself; and similarly M. Bergson thinks that our understanding, owing to the concepts with which it works, perverts the true nature of reality, which intuition alone can grasp. Difficulties are thus thrown in the way of getting a clear view of this reality, for even our fundamental intuitions can only be expressed in terms which are intellectual; and indeed conceptual descriptions are not avoided by the writers who hold them to be misleading.

In almost every region of life we can observe processes which fulfil a purpose without there being any evidence of the presence of an idea of the purpose fulfilled. The growth of the plant, the working of animal instinct, the norma1 vital processes of the human organism, imply no volition, no idea even, of the end, as when the heart beats or food is digested; the more normal the process is, the less is its operation accompanied by any consciousness of it; an idea of its end or purpose is only superadded by reflexion. Further, in the world of mind and society we find results achieved, institutions established, modes of conduct and even of belief built up, without any of the minds to whom they may be traced having had any clear idea of the end to which their efforts were tending. Thus there would seem to be no lack of facts which may be pointed to in support of the view that unconscious purpose is the power—or a power—which is driving on the world to an end which none can foresee. But a question remains concerning the interpretation of these facts. What is meant by speaking of the process as a purpose although unconscious? It is not easy to answer the question; it is not often put; and different possible answers to it are often confused.

In the first place, the process may be regarded as mere aimless striving—movements internally determined but pointing nowhere in particular. It would be absurd to call this purpose, but it might be included under the more elastic term ‘will’ as used by Schopenhauer, or the still more general term élan vital. Or, in the second place, the striving, though without a definite aim, may be a tendency away from something that is definite—namely, the existing condition felt as defective or unpleasant—and may issue in random movements to escape the disagreeable present. In both these kinds of process we cannot trace any intrinsic tendency to a fuller or better or any other definite state of being. They are of the nature of impulse, but we seek in vain in them for any characteristic which would justify our description of them as purposive. If, nevertheless, we find that such processes do achieve a serviceable end oftener than can be accounted for by chance, we must ascribe the direction of the movements to the influence of external forces, and if we do not attribute purpose to these external forces, then the general character of the conception will be mechanistic.

A view of this sort derives support from the Darwinian doctrine. For the operation of natural selection will cut off those organisms which react to the environment in a way which does not suit the conditions, and will leave to flourish and propagate only those which chance to be so constituted as to react in a serviceable manner. What the exact limits of natural selection are is a question for biological enquiry. But it has always one condition; it postulates an organic tendency to maintain and perpetuate life. Acting upon this tendency, the primitive impulses may be turned in various different directions and lead to modified structure; but natural selection only begins to operate when life with its characteristic selective activities is already present.

If we admit these we have to adopt a corresponding view even of primitive impulse: it is selective; it tends in one direction rather than another; it seeks an end even although, neither in the organism nor outside it, is there any idea of that end. This may be taken as the view of unconscious purpose, or immanent will, as the determining force of the world's progress, which has now in many quarters almost attained the rank of a popular creed. But it is hard to understand. There must be some ground or reason determining the life-impulse to take one direction rather than another. It cannot be indifferent to its route, for then its course would have to be determined externally, and we should be back in the mechanical Synopsis, What can the internal ground be? To call it self-preservation with the Stoics and Hobbes and Spinoza is not an explanation; and is besides inadequate, for it fails to account for growth and development. Life never stands still; the life-force seeks an expression which cannot be described by the status quo. Function, in other words does not depend simply upon the structure of the organism; the structure is the mechanism which the life-force has made for itself in interaction with its environment, and which becomes the instrument of its activity and at the same time imposes limits upon it.

How are we to describe that force, impulse, or will which fills the world with its myriad forms? Can we identify its unconscious purpose with the direction that it has taken? To do so would be to ignore the influence of the environment which, operating through the process of natural selection, digs the channels along which the river of life must flow and blocks its course in other directions. The line of historical development cannot be identified with the innate direction of the life-force. It is always a resultant of two things—life and environment—and only in their synthesis can an explanation of the result be found. Yet, according to the view of the process now under consideration, the unconscious will has some direction—a determination towards life of one kind rather than another. Whatever this direction may be, we do not get a sufficient indication of it in the organisms which are unconscious of it and do not show it in their structure. We may suppose that the tendency is towards consciousness or idea. This is the supposition that has been made by most exponents of the ‘immanent will.’ But how are we to understand an unconscious determination towards consciousness? It must be internal, something belonging not to structure but to life. There must therefore be some feature in the nature of life itself which gives it this trend to consciousness. If we could interpret this feature by the old doctrine of evolution—the unfolding of a nature already present—then we should be able and obliged to say that consciousness was already present in the primitive organism, but only in a minor degree: every monad, as Leibniz imagined, would have perceptive activity, which gradually develops into the clear light of self-consciousness. But if our view of evolution requires us to acknowledge a discriminating influence on the part of the environment and a capacity in the organism to learn by experience through contact with the environment, we may yet be unable to distinguish the share of each factor in the process, and thus we may have no means at all for determining the nature of that trend to fuller life which we describe as the immanent purpose of the living being. In this latter case, and in view of the myriad lines of development. Which diverge from the primal path of life, we shall probably be induced to appeal to the environment for the explanation of the preference of one line to another—of that which issues in consciousness to that which terminates in vegetation. And in so doing we shall fall back on an external and quasi-mechanical explanation of purpose itself.

The purpose of which alone we have immediate experience arises in our Own minds and is carried out by our own actions. Evolutionary science is able to trace, at any rate in broad outline, the successive steps by which action of this sort has emerged from the midst of vital processes in which there is no clear evidence for the presence of consciousness, and these again from processes which are, in the wider sense of the term, mechanistic (that is, physico-chemical). It cannot assert that the factors operative in the later stage were present in the earlier, and it is not able to show that they are due to some complexity in the organisation of the more primitive factors, brought about in the course of time. However firmly the causal connectedness of successive stages may be maintained by those who trace the historical process, it has to be admitted that no plausible account has yet been given of the causal transition from physico-chemism to life, or from merely vital process to consciousness. Two interpretations of the facts remain possible: that which holds that the transition will yet be made clear and will be seen to be due simply to the growing complexity of physical and chemical processes from which first life and afterwards consciousness arise; and, on the other hand, the view that the earlier stages of cosmic development have not been fully stated by the physicist and chemist, and that, hidden from their analysis, life and mind have somehow been present from the first. Between these two views the theory of an unconscious purpose or immanent will attempts to mediate, and like many mediating theories it is beset by the difficulties of both the views between which it occupies an uncertain position. Like the mechanical theory it has to face the most awkward of all problems, the transition from the unconscious to consciousness; and it shares with the opposed view the assumption of an internal factor of whose operation there is no direct evidence in the early periods of cosmic history.

If we are content with a knowledge of parts or factors only, then we maybe satisfied with the distinction of material processes, of life, and of mind. In the first there is no trace of the second or third, and in plant life there is no evidence of mind, while on the other hand, life is not due to chemical synthesis nor consciousness to the development of merely vital processes. But, if we seek a point of view from which we may interpret the world as a whole, these different forms of cosmic movement cannot be left in isolation. We have seen the inadequacy of the physicochemical and merely vitalistic conceptions to describe one part of the world, namely, man's part in it. Is it possible that the conception of purpose—no longer described as unconscious—may have a wider application than to his activity and be descriptive of the process of the whole?

Conscious purpose is known to us directly only as it exists in the mind of man; and it is found there in varying degrees and always in company with tendencies which we hesitate to describe by the same term. It is at its clearest when the idea of a future good is connected with a definite plan for its attainment and then realised in action; but it is also present in the vaguer regions of endeavour, when we seek something less clearly defined or feel ourselves drawn to a course of action whose value we recognise but dimly, looking to future experience to reveal more fully both the: way to the end and the mode in which our nature will find satisfaction in it. These vaguer impulses are not separated from conscious life, though consciousness hardly penetrates to their further issues, but they may function without a clear idea of the end they subserve, almost in. the way in which the instincts work which protect, and preserve our organic life.

The close connexion of ideal or purposeful action With merely impulsive action has been regarded as supporting the view that the former is an effect of the latter. It is supposed that certain impulses lead to a result which is felt as favourable, that the idea of pleasure or of success is in consequence associated with them, and that, after repeated associations, the idea of the pleasurable or favourable result revives that train of conative tendencies which had been found in the past to lead to a successful issue. In this associative sequence, the intelligent process, which forms an idea of the end, is united to the conative process in a purely external way; and this is one way in which the facts have been explained. But, even within the limits of the individual mind, there is another way in which impulse and idea are connected. The search for objects, conceived and prompted by ideas, leads to increased facility in the movement of the conative processes until habit takes the place of deliberate planning. Habitual activity recalls and expresses the stored-up results of previous deliberate and purposeful actions. In itself, regarded as an isolated process at any time, it is a merely impulsive action leading to an end without prior consciousness of that end. But, if we take a longer view, we see it as the result of previous conscious actions in which the end was deliberately pursued. The significance of this process is that in it we find not the evolution of conscious purpose from mere impulse or from the unconscious, but a development in the opposite direction by which conscious purposes pass into habit and impulse and use these as a Mechanism which relieves the mind from attention to many of the detailed needs of life and sets its independent activities free for further ends.

In the region of instinct, we find a highly complex organisation of impulses, related to different stimuli, and adapted to the needs of individual and racial life. By a mode of explanation similar to the above, it is possible to regard the instincts also as examples of organic memory, in which are accumulated the results, of countless experiments in living on the part of the far-away ancestors of the present generation. Many varying degrees of intelligence may have prompted these experiments, but perhaps all of them maybe regarded as selective processes, strivings towards an object of desire or for the satisfaction of a felt want. They leave their record in the racial structure, as individual functioning is recorded in the habits of the individual; and the double record has its part to play in the conative activity of the individual—as instinct and as habit.

The tentative efforts of organic and conscious life are, however, in all cases, limited and modified by the influence of the environment which impedes action in one direction and favours it in another. The purposive activity exhibited by the organism is thus part of a larger process which includes all individual lives within it. Further in the lower reaches of organic life, it is often difficult to determine exactly the limits of the individual organism and to distinguish it from a society of organisms. Merely vital individuality is not so well-marked As conscious individuality, and the centre or source of purposive process in it is sometimes uncertain. Even the line which separates the organic purpose from the inorganic, which we have been looking for in the individual centre, becomes obscure.

One interpretation of these facts is that they show the gradual disappearance of purpose as we descend in the scale of being; and it is certainly true that purpose becomes more difficult to localise. And there are other facts which make us hesitate to take the finite centre of individual life as the only source of purpose. In man, where it is clearest and most conscious, there are also, as we have seen, many traces of an underlying purpose in his activity which, being due to the behaviour of past individuals, indicate a racial rather than an individual purpose. And, in the interaction of life with its environment, we cannot overlook the mass of facts which point in the direction of adaptation. These have, it is true, been overworked by so many generations of enquirers in the search for marks of design that we are now apt to pass them all by with a reference to natural selection. At one point, however, the operation of natural selection must stop short, and that is the point before which life begins. Natural selection could not favour the transition from the inorganic to the organic, for it always presupposes vital processes in order that it may work at all. If purpose be admitted as necessary for the interpretation of organisms, and if organisms are held to have arisen out of inorganic material, then there is good reason to postulate that the process which led to organic and purposive life was itself animated by purpose. And the via media of unconscious purpose becomes more difficult than ever to accept when it is applied to inorganic arrangements and movements. The purpose which we are driven to postulate in this case cannot be individual, and it cannot be merely racial; it must be universal. There is not any longer an excuse for interpreting it after the fashion of impulse, for impulse belongs only to living beings with an individual spontaneity. We can conceive the universal purpose as acting only in the manner of mind or consciousness. On this view, the world as a whole will be regarded as animated by a universal conscious purpose, which is expressed not only in its, arrangement and laws but also in the finite purposes, conscious and unconscious, displayed by individual living beings. This view, however, is not put forward as a doctrine which can be rigidly demonstrated. It is part of that more comprehensive synopsis according to which we have been trying to understand the world as instrumental towards the realisation of values.

It is not altogether a smooth and easy way that leads to the conclusion; and the facts of dysteleology must be regarded as the chief stumbling-block on the road. These too may be said to show purpose; but they also prove that the purposes included within the universe are neither entirely good nor entirely harmonious. Purpose is not an adequate conception for the unification of experience until we know its end. It depends for its nature as well as for its value on the interests which it subserves; and these interests may vary and conflict in different purposive centres. In the will of man and its interests we have the clearest indications of this variation and conflict. From his consciousness also we derive the conviction that the conflict can be reconciled only by the unity of different interests in the harmony of the good; and that this harmony can be established only gradually and by free activity. Freedom will explain the divergence and conflict of purposes, and also their slowly progressive moralisation; and to establish this harmony of goodness through the freedom of man, an environment of ideal perfection would have been unsuitable. This point has been already argued. That even it accounts for the details of evil in the world I do not pretend. Our knowledge of the details and their issue is not adequate enough to establish such a conclusion. Besides, there may be other purposes in the world than that which concerns ourselves and lies open to our own reflexion. Whether those purposes imply or require something to our freedom in other portions of the universe than finite conscious lives is a matter of speculation on which I do not enter.

  • 1.

    Enquiry concerning Human Understanding, sect. xii, part 3, ed. Selby-Bigge, p. 164; Essays, ed. Green and Grose, vol. II, p. 135.

  • 2.

    Die Welt als Wille und Vorstellung, § 23.

  • 3.

    Die Welt als Wille und Vorstellung, § 19.