You are here

Contents of the First Volume

Lecture 1


The attitudes toward Theism of Newton and Laplace: that of the latter has become the common attitude of ‘Science.’ This illustrated

The polity of Modern Science claims to be in idea a complete and compacted whole. ‘Gaps’ in what sense admitted, and how dealt with

The dualism of Matter and Mind: ‘Science’ decides to treat matter as fundamental, mind as episodic

Professor Huxley on the situation: his admissions and advice—a blend of Naturalism and Agnosticism. These doctrines complementary: they react upon each other. According to the one, Natural Theology is unnecessary; according to the other, Rational Theology is impossible

Examination of the position that Science forms a self-contained whole. No sharp boundary between ‘science and nescience.’ Mr. Spencer betrays science

Tyndall's suggestion of an Emotional Theology

Part 1. The Mechanical Theory

Lecture 2

Abstract Dynamics

The demurrer of modern scientific thought, though illegitimately, yet practically, forecloses theistic inquiries. A discussion of its fundamental positions therefore called for in the interest of such inquiries

Natural knowledge to be examined (i) formally as knowledge, (ii) as a body of real principles. Beginning with the latter, we have (a) the mechanical theory of Nature, (b) the theory of Evolution, and (c) the psychophysical theory of Body and Mind 40

A. The Mechanical Theory:—The Laplacean calculator; different views of him; he excludes the teleological

Abstract dynamics, a strictly mathematical science at the basis of this theory

It thus divests itself of the real categories of Substance and Cause and substitutes the quantitative terms ‘Mass’ and ‘Force’ (or Mass-acceleration)

But if this be so, Laplace's calculator never attains to real knowledge

Lecture 3

Relation of Abstract Dynamics to Actual Phenomena

The characteristics of Abstract Dynamics recapitulated

The question raised: How far and in what sense this science can be applied to actual phenomena. This problem illustrated from Newton's treatment of Space, Time, Motion, as (1) absolute; (2) relative

Bearing of this distinction on the attempt to determine an actual case of the first law of motion. Various proposals considered. The question of absolute rotation especially instructive. Mach's criticisms reveal the indefinite complexity of ‘real cases’

The mechanical theory is thus divided against itself: it cannot be at once rigorously exact and adequately real. The Kirchhoff School abandon the attempt ‘to penetrate to the mechanism of nature,’ and see in mechanics only an instrument for ‘approximate description.’ Unconditional mechanical statements concerning the real world appear so far unwarrantable

One of these, the Conservation of Mass, specially discussed: Mr. Herbert Spencer's ‘short and easy method’ found wide of the mark. This doctrine, like other mechanical doctrines, justified mainly by its simplicity

Lecture 4

Molecular Mechanics: Its Indirectness

Distinction of mass and molecule. The molecule not a ‘minute Body’

The advance from abstract mechanics to molecular physics: mechanics historically a usurper

Molecular mechanics is (a) indirect and (b) ideal

(a i.) The evidence for molecules examined. Clerk Maxwell's theory of ‘manufactured articles.’ Clifford's criticisms. Further criticisms. Maxwell's theistic bias. The status of the molecule hypothetical. Statistical physics commented upon.

(a ii.) Evolution applied to the molecule. The mechanical theory bound, if possible, to resolve it into something simpler: the prime-atom

(a iii.) The ether—one or more. Lord Kelvin sure of it, but chiefly because the mechanical theory cannot get on otherwise. New ethers invented to meet new mechanical problems. Signs of a reaction. Professors Drude and K. Pearson quoted. Hypothetical mechanisms and illustrative mechanisms distinct, but apt to get confused. Masterful analogies dangerous: is nothing intelligible but what is mechanical?

Lecture 5

Molecular Mechanics: Ideals of Matter

(b) The ideal of matter. The old atomism strictly mechanical but inadequate. Its conversion into one strictly dynamical by Boscovich and the French. The resolution of this in turn into the ‘kinetic theory’

The nature of the primordial fluid examined: it is made up of negations, and is thus indeterminate: prima materia

Relation of its mass to the ‘quasi-mass’ of the vortices: the latter becomes a complicated problem. The kinetic ideal in danger from ‘metaphysical quagmires.’ To avoid this impasse it is proposed to make energy fundamental

Results of inquiry into mechanical theory thus far: Relation of the three sciences, Analytical Mechanics, Molar Mechanics, Molecular Mechanics. The first stands completely aloof from concrete facts. The attempt to apply it to these without reserve leaves us with a scheme of motions and nothing to move

To molar mechanics belongs the rôle of stripping off the physical characteristics of sensible bodies; to molecular mechanics, the rôle of transforming these characteristics into mechanisms, and the mechanisms into ‘non-matter in motion.’ The mechanical theory as a professed explanation of the world thus over-reaches itself

As mechanical science has advanced, its true character has become increasingly apparent—its objects are fictions of the understanding, and not conceivably presentable facts

The kinetic ideal shows this best of all, for some of its upholders dream of ‘replacing’ dynamical laws by kinematical. The refutation is the more striking because they imagine that they are all the while getting nearer to ‘what actually goes on’

It is upon an uncritical prepossession of this kind that the mechanical theory has rested all along. Descriptive analogies have been regarded as actual facts; yet are nothing but the inevitable outcome of the endeavour to summarise phenomena in terms of motion. A moral drawn from the Pythagoreans.

But mechanical science has so far failed even to describe facts in its own terms

Lecture 6

The Theory of Energy

The proposal to replace Mechanical Physics by Energetics. Whatever it may be worth, this proposal at least puts Mechanical Physics anew upon its trial

I. What is energy? Professor Tait's definition of Matter as the ‘vehicle or receptacle of Energy’ examined. Relation of Energy to Matter. Helmholtz's exposition of this relation. Relation of Energy to Mass. Is not Mass as much an analytical abstraction as Force?

All change either a transference or a transformation of Energy, and Kinetic Energy only one form of actual energy—this is the new doctrine. Difficulties of the old theory, which is bent on resolving all actual energy into kinetic energy. Professor Duhem's protest, and some reflections that it suggests

Returning to the new theory we note (i) that quantitative equivalence not qualitative identity is all that is asserted of the several forms of energy; and (ii) that some of these forms may still remain undiscovered. Some final reflections on the mechanical bias

II. What is the Conservation of Energy ? What it is not; it does not warrant statements about the past or future of the universe. It does not mean that Energy is verily and absolutely the substance of the universe. Its relativity. Its character as a postulate. Implications of this and new questions opened up

Part 2. Theory of Evolution

Lecture 7

Mechanical Evolution

1. Mechanical evolution, the process by which the mass and energy of the universe have passed from some assumed primeval state to that distribution which they now present. Mr. Herbert Spencer the best accredited exponent of this doctrine

He regards the universe as a single object, which is alternately evolved and dissolved. But the universe cannot be so regarded

If it could, Mr. Spencer's mechanical principles forbid such alternation. He ignores ‘dissipation of energy,’ and confuses energy with work. The thermo-dynamic zero. A finite universe must have time limits

But is the universe finite? The Kantian antinomies and their solution. The notion of evolution not applicable to ‘the totality of things’

2. The doctrine of the dissipation of energy and questions of reversibility. Limitations introduced by Lord Kelvin, Helmholtz and Maxwell

Two alternatives thus appear equally compatible with Mr. Spencer's ‘fundamental truth.’—(a) evolution without guidance, and (b) evolution with guidance

To account for the visible universe according to (a) requires a definite ‘primitive collocation.’ This Mr. Spencer rejects; for him then the cosmos can be but a chance hit among many misses, a mere speck of order in a general chaos. In expecting more from his mechanical principles he is guilty of the fallacy of confounding (a) with (b)

Lecture 8

Mr. Spencer's Interpretation of Evolution

Mr. Spencer proposes to deduce the phenomena of evolution (celestial, organic, social, etc.) from the conservation of energy. The obvious insufficiency of this principle taken alone. Mr. Spencer's conception of it contrasted with that of Helmholtz

How Mr. Spencer connects this ‘persistence of force,’ as he prefers to call it, with his doctrine of the Absolute. The vagueness of his terms

The three principles in Mr. Spencer's interpretation: 1. Instability of the homogeneous But is the homogeneous necessarily unstable? Quite the contrary. Moreover, Mr. Spencer cannot by analysis get at such a beginning as he supposes. How much can evolution possibly account for, and how little need it presuppose? No clear advance to be made from Mr. Spencer's standpoint

Some illustrative instances of Mr. Spencer's procedure: (a) selfrotating nebulæ: in a single homogeneous object no ground of change; (b) instability of circular orbits: looseness of Mr. Spencer's terminology; (c) chemical differentiation, instability of the heterogeneous: two-edged arguments

2. Multiplication of effects. An instance of what Mr. Spencer understands by one cause and many effects. Illusory deduction of this principle from the fundamental one of persistence of force

3. Segregation. This ‘the key to the advance from vague chaotic heterogeneity to orderly heterogeneity.’ The process described: it turns out to require only ‘forces acting indiscriminately.’ Relation of this principle to the other two. Difficulties for Mr. Spencer in connexion with the distribution of the chemical elements. Also in the characteristics of organisms and the products of human industry. But Mr. Spencer's terminology is happily ‘plastic’

Lecture 9

Reflexions on Mr. Spencer's Theory: His Treatment of Life and Mind

The conclusions to which we were led in examining the mechanical theory apply here. It is impossible to get more out of a theory than there is in it. Out of space, time and mass, how ever manipulated, progress, development, history, meaning, can never be deduced

How has Mr. Spencer come to think this possible? His procedure illustrated

He succeeds by means of formularies that seem to have always a strictly mechanical sense, though they are frequently only figuratively mechanical. Indeed he outvies the mechanical theorists by his more fundamental analysis as well as by his completer synthesis

But he confounds abstraction with analysis; and abstracts till he has no content left

The eliminated elements are then gradually resumed under cover of the principle of continuity. The existing gaps in scientific knowledge help to cloak such recoveries

An instance in Mr. Spencer's transition from Inorganic Evolution to Organic Evolution. Two volumes of the ‘Synthetic Philosophy’ missing

Mr. Spencer's somersault in passing from Life to Mind. After all, the interpretation of Spirit in terms of Matter is allowed to be ‘wholly impossible’

Lecture 10

Biological Evolution

The Lamarckian, Darwinian, and ultra-Darwinian theories generally compared. Natural selection by itself non-teleological. Attempts to assimilate the biological with the physical. Two difficulties in the way. These lead to the question: Is there not a teleological factor operative throughout biological evolution?

Teleological and non-teleological factors distinguished. Darwin recognised both. Only so far as both are present has ‘struggle for existence’ any meaning. The question raised equivalent to inquiring how far mind is concomitant with life. Naturalism confident that life is the wider conception, and appeals to the facts of plant-life

‘Continuity’ seems to help it, but really works both ways. The case argued. The levelling-up method the simpler. Objections to this considered: (1) Reflexes; (2) The character of plants again. Recent views on this point

Restatement of the position reached. Antagonism of organism and environment: the latter, then, not the source of life. ‘Vital force’ unworkable

Turning to the facts of mind we have: (1) Self-conservation; (2) Subjective selection. The meaning and significance of these. Their distinctness from, and relation to, natural selection