I. THE DOCTRINE OF HAECKEL ON RELIGION IN ITS RELATIONS WITH SCIENCE — The conflicts between religion and science — Evolutionary Monism as a solution, both scientific and rational, of the enigmas which are the raison d'être of religions — The religious need — The progressive advance of existing religions, in BO far as they possess utility, towards Evolutionary Monism as religion.
II. THE VALUE OF THE DOCTRINE — (a) The idea of a scientific philosophy: how does Haeckel pass from science to philosophy? (b) Scientific philosophy as the negation and substitute of religions: how does Haeckel pass from Monism as philosophy to Monism as religion?
III. SCIENTIFIC PHILOSOPHY AND ETHICS AT THE PRESENT TIME — Scientific philosophy: the obscurity or looseness' of this concept — The ethics of solidarity; the ambiguity of this term — Persistency of Dualism touching the relation between man and things.
NEITHER the system of Auguste Comte nor that of Herbert Spencer can be regarded as sufficing to obtain for the mind a state of permanent equipoise. Man, the king of nature, the organ and support of the Great Being, finds himself ill provided with room in the purely human universe of Auguste Comte. The Unknowable of Herbert Spencer cannot remain in the limbo to which he would consign it: if it exists, it must seek to unveil itself and to put its mark upon the real world. Moreover, these systems are thoroughly dualistic. Comte tends to consider man, more and more, apart from nature, while, for Herbert Spencer, the absolute is confronted by the relative. Now, if it were found possible, at length, to overcome this dualism completely, and to establish, once and for all, the fundamental unity of all things, should we not be able (taking this same unity as our starting-point) to settle in a definitive manner the tormenting question of the relations between religion and science?
The position just indicated is that of Ernst Haeckel.
The distinguished Professor of Zoology in the University of Jena is not only the learned and original author of the Generelle Morphologic der Organismen (1866), the creator of Phylogeny. In such works as Natürliche Schöpfungsgeschichte (1868), which has been translated into a dozen languages; Der Monismus als Band zwischen Religion und Wissenschaft (1893); Die Welträtsel (1899); Religion und Evolution (1906), he has given expression to philosophical views which, beyond the value appertaining to them through the author's distinguished personality, possess this interest—that they represent, in a striking way, a state of mind very prevalent today, especially in the scientific world.
The Doctrine of Haeckel on Religion in its Relations with Science
It is time, so Haeckel believes, to have done with method of mutual watchfulness, of abstract and metaphysical controversy, which always leads, one way or another, to our making a merely verbal reconciliation between the concept of science and the concept of religion. We must, once for all, bring them face to face: not science in itself and religion in itself—those idle scholastic entities, but religion and science as they are when, desirous of genuine meaning and concrete reality, we look at the conclusions which they both declare, the principles upon which they rest. That, for instance, is what J. W. Draper has done in a well-known book, entitled: The Conflict between Religion and Science (1875); that is what Haeckel intends to do, in his turn, when he comes to determine with precision the conditions of the conflict, and the method that ought to be followed in order to bring it to an end.
Let us push aside, says he at the beginning of his Riddle of the Universe, ultramontane Popery, as well as the orthodox Protestant sects which come little short of it in ignorance and gross superstition. Let us repair to the church of a broad-minded Protestant pastor who, thanks to a good average education and an enlightened perception, can make room for the claims of reason. Even here, amid moral precepts and humanitarian sentiments that are in complete harmony with our ideas, we hear expressed—on God, on the world and on man—propositions thoroughly inconsistent with scientific experience.1
Let us take a few examples of such inconsistencies.
Man, for our pastor, is the centre and goal of all terrestrial life—indeed, ultimately, of the entire universe.
The existence and preservation of the world are explained by what is termed Divine Creation and Providence. This Creation resembles the performance of a mechanician, who, aware of his capacity, thinks of putting it to some use, conceives the idea of a more or less intricate machine, sketches it in outline, and actually realises it through the employment of suitable materials. Then he watches it at work, and preserves it from wear and from accident.
Since this God is fashioned after the human pattern, it is quite easy to think of him as having, himself, created man in his own image. Thence arises a third dogma, which consummates the apotheosis of the human organism: man's nature is twofold, he is a compound of material body and spiritual soul—the product of the divine breath. And his soul, endowed with immortality, is but the temporary guest of his perishable body.
These dogmas form the groundwork of the Mosaic cosmogony. They are to be met with, as regards their essential elements, in the various religions. They consist, to put the matter shortly, in an anthropomorphic conception of nature: of nature, that is, regarded as only the artificial working of a supernatural power. Nothing within nature can be considered as proceeding from her. The transcendent god rules over her, just as he has created and preserved her, and he does whatever he pleases with the laws of her existence: those very laws are but the arbitrary caprices of the creator.
The foundation of these dogmas is the tradition, or transmission, through the ages, of notions relating to a supernatural revelation.
Such are the affirmations of religion: what has science to say on these same matters?
We must carefully decide upon the attitude which the scientist ought to take, before we reply to this question.
Metaphysicians are accustomed to say that these matters with which we are now dealing are not the concern of science—that they altogether go beyond the range of its knowing powers. And a number of scientists, happily at work in their laboratories, show themselves indifferent to problems that cannot be solved by the aid of instruments and calculations. Our knowledge is confined to facts, say they, and so it comes about that they cannot see the wood for the trees. That is the origin of the misconception which endures among men of intelligence. By reason of this abstention on the part of professional scientists—whether through timidity, contempt, or indifference, theologians and metaphysicians continue to dogmatise with impunity. It would seem that science and religion do not move in the same world, that their assertions never bring them into contact. This state of things will subsist as long as science, limited to empirical research, omits to treat of philosophical problems. Science began with the study of details: that was only fitting, and it is through such procedure that she has obtained definitive results. But the time has come for her to generalise, in her turn, and to bring forward, with regard to those questions of origin which exercise the human mind, the demonstrations of experience and of reason against dogmas that are based on sentiment and imagination. At last the time has come to establish a scientific philosophy or rational interpretation of the results of science, and to deal therein with the questions which, up to now, have been left to theologians and metaphysicians
That is, in Haeckel's view, what follows from the general state of modern science, as it is presented in the works of such men as Lamarck, Goethe, and Darwin. Thanks to the discoveries and speculations of these great men, we are able, henceforward, to see clearly what are the main laws of nature, and what meaning is to be gathered from them.
The philosophy which is the outcome of science is summed up in two words: Monism and Evolutionism. On the one hand, being is one, and all modes of existence are of one nature, so that every difference between them is one of degree merely, i.e. quantitative. On the other hand, being is not motionless, but possesses a principle of change; this change, in itself purely mechanical and subject to immutable laws, is the origin of the various kinds of existence, and these are, accordingly, the result of an entirely natural creation.
It is from the standpoint of this philosophy that science, henceforward, ought to approach the questions with which religion is occupied.
Now, starting in this way, science puts forward conclusions which are absolutely hostile to religious dogmas.
Man, according to scientific philosophy, cannot be the centre and aim of the universe. Man is a link in the chain of being, a link which is just as surely connected with the rest of existence as worms are connected with the protista, or fishes with worms. His superiority is but an instance of the extraordinary manner in which the vertebrates have got ahead of their congeners in the course of universal evolution.
In place of the world's artificial creation, science maintains the theory of natural creation. Nature contains in herself all the forces requisite for the production of every kind of existence that is to be found within her realm. The species are born from one another, through transmutation, in accordance with laws and with an order that can, hereafter, be determined. And thus, for the myth of creation, science substitutes the natural history of the world.
The dogma of the immortality of the soul is no less contrary to science, which regards the human individual as only a transitory combination of material particles, analogous to all other combinations.
The general principle of religious dogmas is found in anthropomorphism, artificial creation, and the supernatural. Instead of these notions science suggests those of naturalism, continuity, and natural creation. There is nothing in nature which cannot be explained by nature. She cannot be preceded by anything, nor can anything go beyond her. For the man who enters into the meaning of her laws, especially those of Natural Selection and Evolution, nature is, herself, the author of her existence and of her progress. In this way science is to religion what Darwin is to Moses.
This opposition of doctrines is in keeping with that of the actual bases. Religion rests on revelation: Science knows nothing beyond experience. No idea, according to the scientific view, has value, unless it is either the immediate expression of facts, or the result of an inference determined by those natural laws which govern the association of ideas.
Religious delusion cannot, therefore, prevail in the future, unless we deliberately blind ourselves. If we consider actual science, as constituted by Lamarck and Darwin, there is a direct contradiction, an absolute incompatibility between the affirmations of science and those of religion, as regards the fundamental problems of being and of knowing. It is, then, impossible for an enlightened and consistent mind to approve both at the same time. The choice must, necessarily, be made between them.
Now, the Monistic philosophy—the philosophy of evolution, i.e. of science—which causes the conflict to break out, furnishes at the same time the means of deciding it.
According to that philosophy, wherever this conflict springs up, no mind cast in a scientific mould can hesitate. That belief of ours in revelation, in faith—a belief which is really based upon the emotion and feeling, not only of our subjective states of consciousness, but of our very knowing faculty—represents an inferior stage of intelligence that man has already overpassed. Man, in the existing period of his development, realises that knowledge is supplied to him exclusively through experience and ratiocination, which together constitute what is called reason. Reason, it is true, does not belong to all men in equal degree, but is developed in the human mind by means of educational progress; and, even to-day, a man devoid of modern culture possesses about as much reason as our near relatives among the mammalia—apes, dogs, or elephants.
These principles once admitted, man cannot fail to acquiesce in the conclusions of scientific philosophy these conclusions, which, up to the time of Lamarck and Darwin, were mere guesswork, have become, thanks to the labours of these two scientists actual truths of experience—as much so as the laws of natural philosophy. The great achievement of the nineteenth century, an achievement analogous to that of Newton in the seventeenth, consisted in referring biological phenomena to laws which were clearly as mechanical and natural as those controlling brute matter. To-day, by observation and experience alone, we know for certain that the same great laws—eternal and irreversible—operate in the vital processes of animals and plants, in the growth of crystals, and in the expanding power of vapour.
The universal naturalism that science substitutes for the supernatural creationism of religions is no longer a mere hypothesis agreeable to the scientific mind—it is plain matter of fact.
This conclusion may appear over-bold to some. From the fact of our now being able to explain mechanically, i.e. scientifically, a number of phenomena which formerly seemed to call for supernatural agents, can we infer that all things will be, henceforward, explained or even explainable in the same manner? Is it true that science has completely and once for all abolished mystery? But if mystery remains, if it may conceivably remain, in any part of the universe, to all eternity, is there not still room for religion, for the emotions and the revelations belonging to it? How comes it, after all, that the human mind is surrounded by impenetrable mysteries unless we allow a supposition of this kind? Why does man appeal to revelation if not because it sets at rest certain questions which his reason cannot solve?
Now, says Haeckel (speaking as recently as 1880, before the gathering held in honour of Leibnitz at the Berlin Academy of Sciences), Professor Emil Dubois-Reymond has made the assertion that the universe involves seven enigmas, and that, of these, four at least are absolutely insoluble, so far as we are concerned. Ignorabimus! That, he declared, was to be the last word of science in regard to these matters. The four transcendent enigmas were, according to Dubois-Reymond: the essence of matter and force, the origin of movement, the origin of simple sensation, and free-will (unless, indeed, subjective freedom is to be considered as an illusion). The three other enigmas, viz. the origin of life, the apparent finality of nature, and the origin of thought and language, could only, with extreme difficulty, be stated in terms of scientific mechanism.
Such an assertion, in Haeckel's opinion, cannot be too energetically combated; for it means that everything is called in question again. Once we allow mystery to come in, there is nothing to prevent its entry at all points. We must declare that science is, from this time, justified in proclaiming unequivocally; The world, from the standpoint of man, has no more mysteries to offer.
The difficulties here suggested arise, in the first instance, through our putting forward, under the term matter, an indescribable something—amorphous and inert—and then going on to ask how, from this nothingness, such powers as force, movement and sensation are able to spring. But the hypothesis from which we thus start, is arbitrary and imaginary. Such a substratum is neither given nor conceivable. Science, in her knowledge of facts alone, cannot allow a principle of this kind. That which is given irreducibly, and which, in consequence, is of prime importance for her, is not an indeterminate and passive substance, incapable of entering upon movement and action unless stirred and quickened from without; it is an essentially animated substance, at once extension, i.e. matter, and energy, i.e. mind.
“We hold with Goethe,” says Haeckel, “that matter cannot exist and operate without mind, nor mind without matter. And we approve the comprehensive monism of Spinoza: Matter, or infinitely extended substance, and mind, or feeling and thinking substance, are the two fundamental attributes or special qualities of the divine essence (universal substance) which embraces all things.”2
These concepts have nothing mystical about them. They rest; firstly, upon the laws of the persistence of matter and the persistence of force, conceived originally by Lavoisier, and afterwards established by Mayer and Helmholtz; secondly, upon the unity of these two laws, a unity which science is led to admit, and which, in the last analysis, necessarily proceeds from the very principle of causality. Goethe has shown, in his Wahlverwandtschaften, how the affinities in human experience are only those which, in greater complexity, are found existing between the molecules of the body: how the irresistible passion which drives Paris towards Helen, and which makes him violate every rule of reason and of morality, is the same unconscious power of attraction that impels the spermatozoon to open for itself a passage into the ovum in order to realise fertilisation—the same impetuous movement which combines two atoms of hydrogen with an atom of oxygen in order to form a molecule of water. Let us not, then, be afraid of saying (like Empedocles of old) that Love and Hate control the elements. This guess on the part of genius has to-day become matter of experience.
And thus, in our view, it has been shown that the atom itself is not without possessing a rudiment of feeling and of inclination—the germ, in fact, of a soul. The same argument applies, equally, to molecules, which are composed of two or more atoms, as well as to the compounds, more and more complex, of these molecules. 3
The mode of these combinations is purely mechanical; but, even by virtue of mechanism, the psychical element of things is complicated and diversified with their material elements.
Once in possession of these principles, science solves—or, at any rate, knows that she is on the way to solve—all problems.
First of all, opposite ponderable, inert matter, she sets the ever-moving ether or imponderable matter: at the same time premising, between the ether and ponderable matter, eternal action and reaction. And these two elements, representing the twofold division of universal substance, suffice to explain the most general phenomena of nature.
Science, however, labours in vain so long as she fails to grapple with the greatest and most difficult problem which the mind of man is called upon to face—that relating to the origin and development of things. Now, she can, henceforward, for the purpose of solving this problem, make use of a magic word that Lamarck and Darwin have taught her, viz. Evolution. By virtue of the laws of evolution, the various forms of existence are connected with one another through natural descent; their development, their creation is explained by the simple action of uniform mechanism. And, though a thousand problems still remain unsolved, we are able, in the light of those which we have already succeeded in overcoming, to realise that all partial questions bearing on creation are linked together indivisibly, that they represent a cosmical problem which is one and all-inclusive, and that, therefore, the key to one problem is necessarily the key to every other.
But what is the origin of evolution itself? Must we attribute it to the action of a supernatural principle, and thus leave present in the whole that very element of miracle which we have driven out of the parts?
We should be brought to this extremity if we took for our principle a matter destitute of energy and, on that account, incapable of evolving by itself. But the animated substance that we have put forward, has, within itself, a principle of change and of creation. It does not exclude God, it is, itself, God—a God intramundane and identical with Nature. It ought to be understood that, if the scientist rejects Theism, he no less rejects Atheism. For him, God and the World are one. Pantheism is the scientific conception of the Universe.
In this way vanish, before the search-light of modern science, the so-called enigmas regarding the origin of matter and force, of movement and of sensation. As to the question of free-will, which has kept the world busy for two thousand years, and which has produced so many books that encumber our libraries and accumulate dust therein—this question, also, is no more than a memory. Of what value are vague suggestions based upon sentiment, in comparison with scientific deductions? The will, indeed, is not an inert force. It is a power of automatic and conscious reaction, which is regulative and actively influential. But the inclinations that are inseparable from life itself explain this attribute; and, as to the mode of action inherent in the will, we only consider it free because, following the abstract and dualistic method of metaphysicians, we isolate this faculty from the conditions which determine it. We have not, first of all, to consider the will separately, and then to examine the circumstances wherein it acts. The will as given is burdened with a thousand determinations that heredity has settled upon it. And each of its resolutions is an adaptation of its pre-existing inclination to actual circumstances. The strongest motive prevails mechanically, by virtue of the laws which govern the statics of emotion. If, then, the abstract and merely verbal will appears free, the concrete will is determined like everything else in the universe.
All the enigmas of Dubois-Reymond are, therefore, solvable, or rather, from this time forward, they are solved. The unknowable has no existence. The word stands for nothing but the unknown; and it is no longer the principles of things, but their details only, of which, in future, we can remain in ignorance. The philosopher is little concerned that the extent of this ignorance is enormous, and must always continue to be considerable.
Still, it would be a mistake to assert purely and simply: there is no longer any enigma. One enigma remains, and necessarily remains, viz. the problem of substance. What is this prodigious energy that the man of science calls—Nature or Universe, the idealist—Substance or Cosmos, the believer—Creator or God? Can we affirm that, thanks to the wonderful advances made in modern Cosmology, we have solved the problem of substance, or that we are in sight of its solution?
In truth, the last foundation of Nature is as unattainable by our minds as it was by the mind of an Anaximander or an Empedocles, of a Spinoza or a Newton, of a Kant or a Goethe. We must even confess that this substance becomes, in its essential constitution, the more mysterious and the more enigmatical in proportion as we penetrate further into the knowledge of its attributes and of its evolution. We do not know the “thing-in-itself” which lies beneath knowable phenomena.
But why should we trouble ourselves over this thing-in-itself, since we have not the means of studying it, since we cannot even be sure whether it exists? Let us leave the barren task of brooding on this unintelligible phantom to the metaphysician; and let us, like genuine scientists and realists, take pleasure in the immense headway that has been made in our science and in our philosophy. 4
In short, the comparison between science and religion leads to the recognition that they are contradictory in their affirmations; and the philosophical examination of their respective doctrines leaves no room for the dogmas of religion in opposition to the conclusions of science. Does it follow that we have only to consign religion to the past, among those things which time has cut down and which are to be traced merely in the pages of history?
We are, perhaps, disposed to subscribe to that opinion, if we regard religion and science as two abstract doctrines—if we disengage them from that human soul which is their common ground. But religion has not been invented solely with a view to the vanity of theologians: its real aim is to satisfy certain primary needs of man; and, so long as it cannot be shown that these needs find elsewhere full and entire satisfaction, religion will reappear—no matter how thoroughly it has been suppressed—and will reappear justifiably as an essential factor in human life.
These demands are peculiar to the human mind, and cannot be evaded; one of them is concerned with the explanation of the origin and nature of things. To this demand science undoubtedly paid no attention, so long as she confined herself to the mere record of phenomena and to the study of particular laws. But scientific philosophy is now able to bestow on science her full width of range, and to infer, from her experimental discoveries, the solution of the great enigmas of the universe. Thus, on the side of theory, the elimination of religion is already an accomplished fact.
Now, man has not only theoretical needs, but those, also, which practice brings to light. He has to reckon with affection and sentiment as well as reason; and, since the emotional element of his nature is not less real and essential, its wants, also, ought to be met. Science will only have the right to dimiss religion on the day when, more surely and better than her rival, she shall have learnt to satisfy man's heart, as well as his intellect.
The scientist who, through reflection, has become a philosopher, and who has discovered the rational secret of carrying the inductions begun by science to the very end, feels no anxiety in this respect. The practical range of science is not, in his eyes, less wide than its theoretical range. He is ready to show that science, through her doctrines on the universe and on life, is capable (indeed, that she alone is capable) of bringing emotional satisfaction to man.
But he cannot deny that these considerations are still mainly theoretical. The practical achievement of science is not to be realised, down to the veriest detail, in a day. In her exposition there will remain, for a long time to come, certain gaps of which the various religions will make the most. And not only will these religions be actually maintained so long as science shall fail to perform all the tasks that she has undertaken; but their preservation, during that period, ought to be regarded as salutary and good in some respects.
It is not, then, sufficient to declare that, in principle, religious beliefs have been abolished. They are, in truth, still with us, and they have a service to discharge for many a long day. Science ought, therefore, to come to terms with them, and to find a bond of union between Religion and Science.
Now this bond is furnished by that very philosophy which ensures the exclusive ascendency of science in the future, viz. Evolutionary Monism.
This philosophy, followed up to its practical consequences, ends in the threefold cult of the True, the Good and the Beautiful—a real Trinity offered in place of the Trinity that theologians have imagined.5
In connection with this formula of a trinity, what is to be the attitude of Monism towards that faith which is generally regarded as the highest of all religions—Christianity?
As regards Truth, we ought not, according to the Monistic view, to preserve anything in religious Revelation so called. This revelation teaches a “ beyond” which has no meaning for us, and it lowers to the rank of unstable phenomenon, that which we have come to consider as the only reality.
As regards Beauty, the contradiction is particularly flagrant between Monism and Christianity. For Christianity teaches us to despise nature, to withstand her charms, to do our part in battling against the inclinations that she inspires. It extols asceticism—the emaciation and disfigurement of the human body, It challenges the arts, seeing that their creations always threaten to become, for man, idols capable of serving as a substitute for God. In fact, what is called Christian art has never been anything but the protest of the imagination and of the senses against the ultra-spirituality of the Christian standpoint. How are we to reconcile the grandeur and beauty of Gothic cathedrals with a religion that regards the earth merely as a vale of tears? Christian art is a term involving contradiction. Monism, on the other hand, is essentially naturalistic, and a friend of Beauty, which it recognises as an end in itself. Consequently it will oust Christianity from the domain of art, no less than from the domain of science.
We have still to consider the cult of Goodness. Here Monistic religion agrees, for the moat part, with the Christian religion. We are now alluding, of course, only to Christianity in the pure and primitive form depicted for us in the Gospels and in the Pauline Epistles. Most of the teachings of Christianity, as therein presented, are precepts of charity and forbearance, of pity and comfort, and to all of them we firmly adhere. These precepts, moreover, are not the discoveries of Christianity: they can be traced much further back. They have been carried out by unbelievers, quite as much as they have been disregarded by the faithful. Furthermore, as practised among the adepts of revealed religion, they are not without a touch of exaggeration, often exalting altruism to the prejudice of self-reliance. The Monistic philosophy, on the contrary, adjusts the balance between these two tendencies, both equally natural to man. But, if restricted to measuring the value of its main principles, the Christian religion may become an auxiliary of Monism and promote moral advancement; and—understood in this sense—it ought to be actually supported in the name of Monism itself.
Thus we find in Monism the connecting link between religion and science after which we have been groping.
The course to be taken will consist, shortly, in making an intelligent use of religions, so as to get rid of their unnecessary co-operation by degrees: just as, in order to cross a river, we make use of a footbridge, and have nothing more to do with it when we have reached the other bank.
Adopting this method, we shall, first of all, bring about the complete separation of Church and State, in order to take away from the Church the factitious support of the State, and to make it dependent upon its own resources alone.
The positive complement of this negative measure is educational reform: such a complement is, indeed, indispensable. Education is the most important question of all for a society which is anxious to extricate itself from religious beliefs. The object of a genuine education is to shape man, i.e. man in his entirety: to care for the emotional side of his being as much as the intellectual side, for his religious soul as much as his scientific mind.
Public education cannot allow any religions formularies: she shuts out such formularies from the school, abandoning them to home instruction. Public education directs and makes use of the principles of scientific morality, i.e. of the practical teaching which proceeds from Evolutionary Monism. It does not ignore existing religions, but it takes from them the subject-matter of a new science—that of Comparative Religion. The myths and legends of Christianity are considered therein, not as truths, but as poetical fictions, analogous to Greek and Latin myths. The ethical or æsthetical value that myths may contain will not be lessened through being traced to their real source in human imagination; such value will be thereby increased.
The man of a later day, in possessing science and art, will possess religion: consequently, he will not be obliged to shut himself within that walled portion of space which is named a church. Everywhere throughout the great world, besides the fierce struggle for existence, he will discover signs of Goodness, of Truth and of Beauty; and in this way his church will be the Universe.
But there will always be men to whom retirement into richly decorated temples, for the purpose of a common cult, will appear desirable; and we may, therefore, expect that—in line with what took place in the sixteenth century when a number of Catholic churches fell into the hands of the Protestants—there will, at some future time, be a still larger transference of Christian churches to Monistic communities.6
The Value of the Doctrine
The doctrine of Haeckel on the relations between religion and science is very precise. According to him, the uncertainty which prevails, even to-day, upon this subject, has its origin in the antipathy of scientists towards those speculations which outstrip their own immediate and particular investigations. Let science, seeing that she is quite ready for such a course, adopt the rôle of philosophy, and she will then be able, not only to refute, but to take the place of existing religions.
This doctrine raises two main subjects of inquiry: (1) The idea of a scientific philosophy; (2) Scientific philosophy considered as the negation and substitute of religions.
The idea of combining philosophy and science was quite simple in the Greek world. Science, as then defined, was keenly alive to the principles of order, of harmony, of unity and of finality which were the common foundation of reason and things: she was, accordingly, metaphysical in essence. And philosophy was the mind, recognising its own æsthetical and rational principles in those of nature and of human life.
For men of to-day the outlook is different Science has more and more got rid of everything connected with metaphysics. She is (or wishes to be) entirely positive: in other words, she intends to confine her survey to facts, and to those inductions which are exclusively determined by facts. A scientific philosophy would, therefore, be a philosophy devoid of all metaphysics—finding in facts its necessary and sufficient ground. Is such a philosophy possible?
Philosophy, according to Haeckel, is essentially inquiry into the nature and origin of things. We can distinguish it from science properly so called through seeing that it is not satisfied with investigating the peculiar nature of such and such a body, or the approximate cause of such and such a class of phenomena, but that, generalising problems, it considers whether there are, indeed, common and universal principles, capable of explaining both the laws of nature collectively and the origin of all existence. Now, if for a long time science has not succeeded in supplying philosophy with data that can be regarded as adequate for the examination of these problems, the situation, according to Haeckel, has become altogether different since the labours of Laplace, Mayer and Helmholtz, of Lamarck and Darwin. To-day, science—in the real sense of knowing facts—has made such ample progress in studying the problems of essence and of origin, that philosophy can accomplish her task through scientific co-operation alone. We need only interpret, rationally, the great discoveries of modern scientists—following, in this respect, the example of such men as Lamarck, Goethe and Darwin.
What is the real gist of this line of thought, which has to justify humanity in preserving philosophy, while entirely repudiating metaphysics?
Haeckel's purpose is, evidently, to conceive scientific experience and philosophical interpretation as being simply, at bottom, one and the same mental process. After quoting those lines of Schiller wherein the poet exhorts scientists and philosophers to become united in effort instead of being divided, he declares that the end of the nineteenth century saw a return to the monistic attitude which the great poet of realism—Goethe—had presciently adopted, at the beginning of that same century, as the only one that was healthy and permanent.
We are now wondering, perhaps, if Haeckel has been able to carry out his intention in very truth.
Treating—in the first chapter of his work, Die Welträtsel—of the philosophical methods through which the riddles of the world may be solved, he says that these methods are not actually different from those used in purely scientific investigation. They are (as in science) experience and inference.
Experience comes to us by way of the senses, while inferences are the work of reason. We must take care not to confuse these two modes of knowledge. Sense and reason are the functions of two entirely distinct portions of the nervous system. As, moreover, these two functions are equally natural to man, the exercise of the second is no less legitimate than the exercise of the first, provided that it take place in conformity with the dictates of nature. If metaphysicians are wrong in isolating reason from the senses, scientists err just as much in pretending to eject reason. It is quite a mistake to declare that philosophy has had its day, and has been replaced by science. How are we to describe the cellular theory, the dynamic theory of heat, the theory of evolution and the law of substance, except as rational, i.e. philosophical doctrines?
The explanations given by Haeckel would seem to throw hardly sufficient light upon this transition from science to philosophy which, according to him, ought to decide all problems. In order to justify this transition, Haeckel draws attention to the joint presence of reason and sense in those animals which are beneath man in the scale of existence. He maintains that the reason differs from the senses through having its seat in other parts of the nervous system; and he asks why we should be debarred from using our reason in conformity with nature any more than from using our senses. But how does all this prove that, in reason, there is no principle of interpretation apart from scientific inference properly so called, and that, in viewing things from a standpoint other than that of the scientist, the mind is unquestionably at fault? In order to arrive at this conclusion, we should have to be provided with a survey of the contents of reason, and for such a survey we look to Haeckel in vain.
Possibly, indeed, a precise theory of reason, whatever it were, would be embarrassing: at this point? scientific philosophy, as it is conceived by Haeckel, must differ, in some way, from science; its conclusions are bound to go beyond those of science pure and simple, though connected therewith according to the relationship of continuity. Now, if it be assumed that there is, literally, nothing more in reason than what the scientist turns to account, the philosopher, notwithstanding all his efforts, will nowise be able to outstrip science, unless, above a science that is exact and true, he decides to place a science that is inaccurate and false. In this hypothesis, only science is legitimate; and all philosophy is but science under another name, or mere literary caprice. On the other hand, if there are, in reason as naturally constituted, certain principles besides those of which science makes use, we must abandon the hope of establishing a continuity between science and philosophy; we must acknowledge, between the two, a distinction, not only of degree, but of kind.
But doubtless the very system that Haeckel has constructed, reveals, by itself, the possibility of realising a purely scientific philosophy. If this philosophy exists, and if its working proves that it really possesses scientific certainty, though inexplicable in terms of the scientific method pure and simple, why trouble ourselves because we cannot altogether see in theory how, from science, we are to derive a philosophy which may or may not be science?
This system is Evolutionary Monism. Accepting the laws discovered by a Newton, a Lavoisier, a Mayer, or a Darwin, Monism is not restricted to adopting, defending, determining and enlarging these laws—in fresh cases—with originality, penetration, daring or recklessness: that would be merely to continue a specifically scientific task, subject to control, to rectification, to modification—like every other theory of science. Monism sets up as dogmas the formulæ that it has drawn out, announcing that the conception of the world therein presented is enjoined upon us once for all, as a logical necessity, by the recent advances in our knowledge of nature. It would claim for those very propositions which are deduced scientifically, a certainty beyond that of science—a truly metaphysical certainty.
A first characteristic to be attributed to its principles, to its substance—one implied in its twofold nature and in its law of evolution—is absolute determination, fixity, eternity. Now, we could not, by the aid of merely scientific logic, definitely ascribe eternity to even the most fundamental principles of the sciences; for, in science, fundamental principles are functions of particular laws, and these laws can never be considered as determined in an unalterable manner.
Haeckel assigns universality as a second characteristic to his principles. But he cannot call scientific, or analogous to scientific induction, the generalisation through which he extends to all possible kinds of existence the properties that actual science claims for those beings which have come under her observation. The induction of which he here avails himself is that inductio per enumerationem simplicem, destitute of analysis and criticism, which in science is quite valueless. The beings of our observation present, in a portion of time, certain phenomena which cannot be summed up in words about unity of constitution and of evolution (words, moreover, which do nothing more than express general ideas, admitting of very different determinations); existence is, therefore, one, and subject, in the totality of its manifestations, to one the same law of evolution. We have to do here, not with an induction, but a transmutation of the particular into the universal.
Does the system, when all has been said, leave to the words unity and evolution a scientific and experimental sense? It is difficult to grant this.
The One of Haeckel dominates ether and ponderable matter, brute matter and living matter, extension and thought, the world and God. It is essentially alive, sentient, capable of action, endowed with reason in the deepest sense. As to evolution, on the one hand, Haeckel pronounces it strictly mechanical, though, apparently, it exceeds the forces known to science (actual science at least); on the other hand, he knows that, in spite of cases of reversion to lower grades, advance towards perfection predominates, though this, likewise, is something more than a generalisation.
He describes his system 7 in terms of Pantheism, thus indicating that God is not outside the world, but at the very heart of it—that He works from within, through force or energy. The rational interpretation of things, Haeckel declares, is the monistic conception of the unity of God and the world.
Here again, the distinction between “within” and “outside,” between a transcendent force and an immanent force, sets one thinking about metaphysics much more than about science.
In fine, after having promised to reduce everything unknowable to the unknown—to an unknown, similar, in its essence, to the knowable—Haeckel brings us to a law of substance which, according to him, becomes increasingly mysterious as we penetrate further into the knowledge of its attributes.
It is, then, impossible to consider his philosophy a simple extension of science. We were told at the start that it would have regard not only to the senses, but to the reason: that it would really illustrate the method of the philosopher, and not only that of the scientist. Its method, most assuredly, is philosophical as well as scientific; but the philosophical elements which it contains are clearly borrowed from what in metaphysics is termed dogmatism.
Does this philosophy, as we find it set forth, perform the task which Haeckel assigns to it—the task of refuting and replacing religion?
In order to pave the way for a complete and definitive refutation of religions, Haeckel undertakes, in the first place, to exhibit their fundamental principle. He finds this principle in Dualism. The various religions have beheld on all sides, as the outcome of a radical duality, a struggle of natural forces and of supernatural forces. The innumerable applications to which this idea has given rise, can be summed up, according to Haeckel, in two main contentions: the duality of God and the world expressed in the doctrine of design, and the duality of man and nature expressed in the doctrine of human freedom.
In his philosophy, Haeckel finds the process of reasoning necessary for refuting these two erroneous beliefs which lie at the root of all others.
Theology, says he, starts from the hypothesis (based on superficial analogies) of a world that is but an inert machine. Now, a machine calls for an artificer, and a machine that is incomparably more perfect than all human machines requires, in like manner, an artificer infinitely superior to human artificers.
This anthropomorphic reasoning breaks down as soon as it is realised, in harmony with the teaching of Monism, that the world is not a machine, but an essentially living being.
Similarly, the delusion of free-will arises through our failing to take note of the obscure impulses which determine our acts, and through our believing in self-activity simply because we do not perceive the forces that are driving us: hence, theoretically, we isolate action from the conditions of its exercise. Thus set apart, our activity appears to us as indeterminate. But Monism proves that a bare activity is an abstraction; that, in reality, activity is simply one with matter wherein lie the conditions of its exercise; and that, consequently, every given activity is entirely determined.
In this way, declares Haeckel, the props of the traditional religions—those very props which were deemed so unshakable—collapse in presence of Evolutionary Monism.
But is it quite certain that, in destroying the Mosaic doctrine of the creation and the Scholastic doctrine of the liberty of indifference, Haeckel has, at the same time, destroyed everything that gives support to religions?
Haeckel knows but one kind of design, viz. external and transcendent design as illustrated in the altogether mechanical relation of the manufacturer to his production. In showing that this conception of design cannot be applied to the world, he imagines that he has done away with every kind of teleology. But this conception, which, after all, scarcely suggests the supernatural except in name (seeing that God is therein likened to terrestrial beings), cannot be considered as representing the philosophical doctrine of design in an adequate manner. From Aristotle to Hegel, philosophy has conceived, more and more clearly, a design that is not external, but internal; not mechanical, but dynamic; not fixed, but living—a design which does not consist in any sudden overthrow of the natural order of things, but which, inwardly developing life and the struggle for something better, is manifested in the actual laws of nature.
Again, the theory of freedom to be found in the teaching of an Aristotle, of a Descartes, of a Leibnitz or of a Kant, hardly resembles that which Haeckel restricts himself to considering and refuting. Those philosophers have professed the very doctrine that Haeckel puts forward in opposition to them—the doctrine concerning the unity behind freedom and its conditions of action in the will as real and given; and, far from their having been satisfied with the imaginative and mechanical conception of an artificer making use of forces external to himself, the tendency of their speculation has been towards conceiving this unity, with growing confidence, as dynamic and living.
In short, the conceptions of design and freedom that we find among representative philosophical thinkers, obviously tend, in their turn, towards a doctrine of unity. In carrying out this aim, would they have shown themselves at variance with the religious disposition? And would Haeckel have been right in pronouncing such a disposition thoroughly dualistic?
Haeckel's assertion constitutes an expression of opinion rather than an authentication of facts. Many religions rest precisely on the hypothesis of an original unity embracing the human and the divine. In religion we are to find the means of translating this unity into life, and of re-establishing it where it has been broken off. Far from dualism being the essence of religion, unity is the fundamental dogma which is revealed in the highest examples, and there are plenty of passages to prove this. One of the best-known and most significant is the Stoic maxim taken over by Christianity: “In Him we live, and move, and have our being.”
Still, it is quite true that religions teach a dualism, a separation of God and nature, while tending to reunite them.
They teach an actual duality, when the unity represents to them what is right and what ought to become fact. “ Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done, as in heaven so on earth!” This means.: let the separation which is actually found between creatures and the Supreme Being come to an end, and let the hidden unity underlying all things be realised!
This conception of an actual duality, coexistent with the essential unity of being, contains nothing, in principle, which can give offence to Haeckel; for it is in this way that he himself apprehends the world and human life. After having shown how substance is, at bottom, necessarily one, Haeckel goes on to state that it is manifested under two essential aspects which are opposed to one another: vibratory ether and inert matter. He is even of opinion that this dualism might furnish a rational basis to religion-It would be sufficient for this purpose, he says, to consider the universal vibratory ether as the creating deity, and the inert ponderable mass as the matter of creation.8 Similarly, human nature—fundamentally one—is realised, according to Haeckel, under the double form of emotion and reason, which are given as opposite expressions. The search after truth, for instance, is the concern of reason alone: we are therein debarred altogether from feeling. Philosophical progress consists in accurately describing the dualism of feeling and reason, and in completely separating the latter from the former.
Speaking generally, Haeckel's turn of mind is dualistic. All truth is for him on one side, all error on the other. Human life is symbolised in the story of Hercules, set between two opposite ways. Dualism or monism, immanence or transcendence, science or religion, reason or emotion, natural or supernatural, liberty of indifference or absolute determinism, artificial purpose or thorough-going mechanism,—all is presented, for Haeckel, under the form of an alternative which necessitates choice.
Dualism is, then, the actual standpoint from which Haeckel views human life. His philosophy aims at establishing unity therein through abolishing one of two contraries.
If, therefore, the system of Haeckel is radically opposed to traditional religions and crushes them beneath the weight of its criticisms, this result is only gained, in reality, by strangely limiting or even altering the meaning of these religions. It is their formal confessions rather than their essence that Haeckel has attacked, and these confessions he has taken in a narrow and material sense that would be rejected by many religious minds. This refutation, then, has really left standing more than one reconstructive principle of religious doctrines.
There is no cause for astonishment at this. Haeckel cannot mean to destroy everything that upholds religions; for he himself believes that the religious need, connected by him with feeling, is a natural need of man, just as feeling is a distinct and natural faculty; and he is of opinion that this need must necessarily be met, no less than the scientific need. His philosophy, in fact, is bound to solve this practical problem. Does it succeed in doing so?
In order to face religion properly, science has merely, according to Haeckel, to enlarge her compass and to convert herself into philosophy. As a matter of fact, Haeckel has only carried out this development to the extent of presenting science with a certain number of concepts borrowed from metaphysical dogmatism. Now, it would appear that in order to render this philosophy, in its turn, capable, not only of refuting, but of replacing the various religious, Haeckel would have been obliged, likewise, to furnish it from the outside with embellishments that could not have been obtained from its own resources.
He is fond of reiterating that what science and art possess is equally the possession of religion. And he terminates his confession of monistic faith by an invocation to God as the common principle of Goodness, Beauty and Truth. In Truth, Goodness and Beauty we have, he says, the three sublime aspects of deity before which we may bend the knee in devotion. It is in honour of this ideal—a God genuinely one and threefold—that the twentieth century will erect its altars.
And in order to justify the ascription of such a meaning to his philosophy, he invokes the authority of Goethe, the greatest genius of Germany. It is this very Goethe who has said:
Wer Wissenschaft und Kunst besitzt,
Hat auch Religion;
Wer jene beiden nicht besitzt,
Der habe Religion!9
Now, what are we to gather from this saying?
Art, with Goethe, stands for the ideal, in so far as it is separated from the real. And this ideal is not simply an effluence or reflection of the real, but its principle. Upon it we must rely, from it we must receive inspiration, if we would overpass ourselves. Das Vollkommene muss uns erst stimmen und uns nach und nach zu sich hinaufheben:10 Perfection, as if by prevenient grace, must, first of all, give us the right disposition ere raising us by degrees toward itself.
Thus, by adding Goethe's authority to that of Spinoza just as he had already supplemented Darwin by Spinoza, Haeckel thinks that he can satisfy, not only philosophical requirements, but the specially religious and ideal aspirations of humanity.
How is this new accession incorporated into his system? That, it must be admitted, is by no means clear. Haeckel rests satisfied with saying: the man of to-day, besides the fierce struggle for existence, discovers everywhere traces of Truth, Beauty and Goodness; but what connection is there between these two aspects of reality? How comes it that, while teaching us to regard the law of the struggle for life as the fundamental law of nature, science is able to persuade us that Truth, Beauty and Goodness are everywhere present in the world, and ought to be the aim of all our longings and endeavours?
Evidently Haeckel, with a view to replacing religions, has introduced at this point certain obligatory concepts over and above experiential concepts, or—what amounts to the same thing—has imparted a value to the imperatives subjectively given in our consciousness. But a subjective and imaginary injunction, thus set up as constituting real knowledge and obligation, is nothing else than what we call revelation. And so, through the introduction of an alien principle, analogous to religious revelation, Haeckel is able, in the end, to join with Goethe in reaching out towards truth, goodness and beauty.
But once we are allowed to find room again in philosophy for beauty, truth and goodness as ideals to be pursued, what is there that we may not restore? How is the God of religious beliefs expressed if not in the attempt to picture truth, beauty and goodness? These objects are not concepts of a fixed and calculable kind, like the idea of a triangle or the notion of a vertebrate. All the metaphysical and religious speculations of mankind have been suggested by the strange nature of these three objects, which are not materially given, but which the mind seeks, in endless progression, to bring within its range—rising, in this effort, above itself, and striving to be at one with what it calls God.
It would be difficult to say with precision to what ethical scheme, to what form of religion, the monism of Haeckel would have led, if it had not, with sheer inconclusiveness, drifted towards the ideal of Goethe. So long as the philosophy of Haeckel was limited to combating religions, it laid particular stress on the fundamental unity of the various kinds of being, on universal mechanism, on the fatality of the struggle for existence, on the emptiness of our subjective convictions, on the absolute solidarity which links each being with the totality of the universe. Can we, from these principles, infer anything resembling what we call freedom, personal worth, humanity, fraternity, search after ideals?
Just as there was for science (as Haeckel conceived it) a paradoxical problem in connection with its conversion into philosophy, so the conversion of this same philosophy into religion is a change so slightly indicated by the system's own principles that it presents the appearance of the supernatural.
The only satisfactory explanation to be given is that Haeckel has raised science to the rank of philosophy in such a manner as to find in it the means of overthrowing religions; and that he has afterwards brought his philosophy to the level of these same religions, in such a manner as to render it capable of replacing them. And the end, as a heterogeneous principle, has created the means!
Scientific Philosophy and Ethics at the Present Time
We must distinguish, in Haeckel'a system, between idea and execution. The execution is characterised by an eclecticism which is decidedly embarrassing to criticism. Haeckel compares rather than unites Darwin and Spinoza, Spinoza and Goethe. But the idea is not necessarily affected by the objections that execution suggests. Perhaps the eclecticism to which Haeckel has recourse presents merely the same degree of obscurity as any new idea that we cannot grasp at once.
The idea which Haeckel has clearly conceived, and which he has cleverly upheld, may be expressed as follows. Man, henceforward, has one genuine certainty, viz. Science; and, the more he reflects on the nature of this certainty, the more it becomes clear to him that he does not possess—and, indeed, cannot possess—any other. He would deceive himself, therefore, and build only crumbling structures, if he sought, for any of his theories whatsoever, other foundation than that of Science.
But, while moulding his thought in compliance with things (as rational integrity demands), man is not disposed and does not feel it right to renounce, in any degree, what—according to his conviction, according to an invincible feeling—links him veritably with the nature of things, and constitutes his nobility, his superiority, his self-reliance, his happiness.
To all this, it will be said, science is indifferent. That is so, observes Haeckel, and at this point we come upon Ms cardinal idea, that in science we can find nothing else than science. Consider what is involved in science—interpret, with the help of reason, her principles, her methods, her results; in short, create, by means of the very faculties with which science set out, a scientific philosophy; and science thus developed, thus extended, without thereby changing her special nature, will furnish you with all the theoretical knowledge, all the practical teaching that a well-ordered mind demands, and that a purely empirical science was impotent to procure.
In this manner the traditional religions will become useless, being superseded. The religion of the future will be the religion of science.
Defects of execution, then, have nowise compromised Haeckel's idea. As a rule, it is not because a principle is indifferently or badly applied, vehemently contested and disproved a hundred times, that it falls away and disappears; it is because it is without any real content, without vitality and without energy. The idea that Haeckel upholds is one of those which to-day rule the intellectual world.
Various attempts have been made to think out this idea so as to avoid the defects that, in Haeckel's case, seemed on the way to compromise it. Can it be said that these attempts have ended in success?
The philosophy called scientific is, just now, in high favour. It seeks increasingly to deserve its name. Now, the furtherance of the scientific method consists in setting aside, more and more, every metaphysical or subjective datum, in order to rely exclusively upon tact understood in a certain way—fact as identical for every observer, objective fact, scientific fact. Consequently, scientific philosophy is specially desirous of being established apart from any metaphysical hypothesis. She would like, literally, to have no other foundation than science, no other organ than reason, and to be strictly tied down to the logical methods that science asks of her.
Scientific philosophy, then, without relinquishing her hold on the problems which are more general and more far-reaching than those with which science in the strict sense deals, is bent on adhering, ever more closely, to science; she is minded to continue this adherence even when she seems to be going beyond the scientific limit.
This attitude leads—among those who take its requisitions seriously—to the withdrawal of scientific philosophy from speculative and, in particular, from practical problems which are rightly the subject-matter of religion. If religion is affected by studies on such subjects as the nature of the scientific hypothesis or the principles of physical chemistry, that can only be very indirectly and in a slight fashion. The biological sciences, it is true, seem in themselves more akin to things moral and religious, since they have to do with the conditions of existence, of development, of competition, of adaptation, of communities and of progress. But their method, like that of all science, consists in reducing the higher to the lower. Now, while allowing that the concepts which are here in question have, in the natural sciences, a practical meaning analogous to that of our moral concepts, who would willingly resign himself to the spectacle of man shaping his conduct exclusively in accordance with the life of creatures beneath him in the scale of being, without seeking to provide satisfaction for the conscience and for the aspirations that belong to man as such? If animal society is the starting-point of human society, does it follow that human associations cannot and ought not to differ from animal associations?
That is why, in general, professional scientists say goodbye to methodical analysis and deduction, as soon as they go beyond the philosophical problems that are somehow included within the strictly scientific sphere of knowledge, in order to enter upon those wide generalisations called by the Germans Weltanschauungen, and to reach thereby the questions that are of genuine interest to the moral and religious consciousness. They do not state their views on the religion of science in the same scientific manner that is customary in stating a general law which is evolved from the particular laws based on observation. Nay rather, in set speeches, in prefaces, in conclusions and in lectures, are they wont to celebrate with eloquence the blessings of science: how great and beautiful it is—how it calls forth and develops the virtues of patience, of abnegation, of tenacity, of sincerity, of sociability, of brotherhood, of devotion to humanity; and they wind up glowingly by claiming for science the supreme dominion. Henceforward she alone is in possession of the moral vigour needed to establish the dignity of human personality and to organise future commonwealths. It is science that will usher in the golden age of universal equality and fraternity based on the sacred law of toil.
The scientist thus offers us, in place of religion, his own nobility of life and depth of thought, the prestige of his personality and of his genius, rather than definite doctrines scientifically established through the discoveries of actual science.
Further, we are not to be content with the indistinct conception of a scientific philosophy, intervening between science and religion. Instead of contrasting religion with a science defined as unifying principle and as philosophy, many thoughtful people have wondered if it were not possible to constitute a determinate science, in harmony with the general notion of scientific knowledge, but specially conceived so as to fulfil, in human life, all the requisite or useful functions that have hitherto been fulfilled by religion.
The particular science which appeared capable of being constituted in this way, was that of ethics; and on all sides the idea of a scientific morality was extolled. This idea was not only embraced with fervour; the attempt was made to realise it. One of the most remarkable results of this effort is shown in the ethics of solidarity.
Solidarity is a scientific concept, unlike Christian charity or Republican fraternity. Solidarity is a law of nature—gravitation, for example. It is the condition underlying the existence and prosperity of every human community. At the same time and on that very account, solidarity is desired, explicitly or implicitly, by every reasonable man for whom the idea of living outside the conditions of existence is impossible.
Hence solidarity constitutes just that convergence of theory and practice, that natural transition from fact to activity, which it was necessary to discern before we could dispense with religion. Life, in thereally human sense, is in need of a rule. So long as science was incapable of furnishing this, we were obliged to look for it in the region of sentiment. Thanks to solidarisme, the deficiency has at last been supplied: science appears under a new aspect as coincident with life. Moreover, the principle which this aspect of coincidence expresses, is sufficient. Let us analyse all the obligations that an enlightened judgment imposes on man: the obligations of justice, of help, of self-improvement, of tolerance, of devotion towards family, country, society, humanity—all are explained and determined by the single scientific notion of solidarity.
The ethics of solidarity, according to adepts, will play the very part that Haeckel attributed to monism regarded as religion. For the present, through the tolerance that it recommends, as well as through the analogies that it offers with what is reasonable in the various religions, this ethical teaching will serve to reconcile religion and science. But, by degrees, along with the development of its applications and with its growing acceptance, it will tend to replace the old religions; for it will perform, not only all the useful tasks which they succeeded in carrying out, but other tasks of a still wider and loftier kind, obligatory for minds trained according to the methods of scientific culture.
The solidaristes are confident that, in this way, they have determined the exact concept necessary for the establishment of scientific morality as genuinely one and homogeneous—no longer merely the eclectic combination of two heterogeneous courses of discipline.
The importance of a discovery like this is scarcely to be exaggerated! In the early stages of modern science, Descartes found in extension—at once observable and intelligible—the connecting link between the material world and the mind. Can we, in the same way, discover a connecting link between the world of science and the world of action? It is this last-named link that solidarisme provides.
What is the real value of such a standpoint?
Solidarity, it is said, is a scientific datum. Most certainly science shows us how a concourse of beings, of phenomena depend upon one another. It is even part of its office to discover relations involving solidarity. The law of action and reaction is a law of solidarity. But science is not less desirous of seeking and establishing relations of independence.
Pascal has written: “The parts of the world are so linked and interconnected, that we cannot, I believe, understand one without another or without the whole.” Perhaps this statement as to universal solidarity is theoretically legitimate. But it is, at least, certain that the practical admission of such a principle would render science impossible. The work of science has only been effectual through the belief that certain parts of nature are sensibly independent of the rest. What is called a law, a species, a body is a particular solidarity which is relatively constant, i.e. relatively independent as regards the rest of nature. The discovery of Kepler's Laws and of the law of universal attraction has only been possible because the solar system was taken as forming, in some way, a whole by itself. The very terms of Newton's law indicate that the action of certain bodies on others can be disregarded. It is through eliminating all the other given circumstances that we have found how, barometrical experience, to make the rise of the liquid column depend on the pressure of the atmosphere alone. Assuredly, science is on the look-out for solidarities. But the problem that she undertakes is to know what solidarities she ought to allow—what apparent or conceivable solidarities she ought to reject; and she can only discover solidarities where nature itself has presented certain connections of phenomena sensibly independent of other phenomena.
It would, then, be very arbitrary to adhere to the notion of solidarity without referring to the opposite notion. A solidariste who really takes science as his guide is not less anxious to dismiss solidarities that are purely apparent and accidental, than to determine those which are true and genuine. He labours at establishing relations of independence and autonomy, not less than those relations which imply solidarity or mutual dependence.
But even though this parting of false and true solidarities were realised, the solidariste would then be only at the beginning of his task; for he cannot rest content with the solidarities that nature offers him. He is compelled to look for the well-being, the righteousness, the happiness of men. Is he, then, going to restore the anthropomorphic dogma so vigorously denounced by Haeckel, and to allow that, in the solidarities of her own making, nature has actually in view the satisfaction of the human conscience? It is evident that what the solidariste borrows from science is simply a framework, the abstract form of solidarity. Into this framework, he reserves to himself the right of putting what will satisfy his moral needs. He will preserve a considerable part of what science offers him, but just in so far (to adopt the phrase of Descartes) as he may find it amenable to reason.
Hence it would seem that the principle of the solidaristes, though apparently one, is in reality twofold. A single word proves, in this case, to conceal two ideas. On the one hand, we have physical solidarity, i.e. solidarity as naturally given, indifferent to righteousness, rudely out of keeping with the humane point of view that is man's special prerogative; on the other hand, we are shown moral solidarity, free and equitable—an idea which presents man with an object worthy of his struggles, and which he will realise (in harmony with the rest of his ideal experience) through making proper use of the materials that he finds in nature.
In other words, the connecting link between science and practical life of which we are in search, is not provided by the scheme of the solidariste. This scheme embraces fact and idea after the manner of eclectic doctrines, and, putting them under a single name, it declares that they are one.
It is true that many are prepared with this reply: It is wrong to discuss moral solidarity from the standpoint of pure idea, and on that account to place it opposite physical solidarity. It also is a fact, an experimental datum, a scientific truth, for it has its root in human instinct. It is simply the perception, by consciousness, of a law peculiar to human nature, analogous to physical laws. The human individual, like the animals, is born and lives within a particular association of certain beings. What is called moral solidarity is merely the knowledge and theory of this special solidarity.
The postulate of this explanation involves the likening of consciousness to a mirror which can only give a passive reproduction of the objects placed before it. A metaphor becomes a theory. But, in point of fact, man finds himself in presence of a great multiplicity and variety of given solidarities. Between these solidarities we have to make our choice: here we ought to annul, there to maintain. It is even a question of establishing solidarities that are not given in any visible sense, e.g. solidarities based on righteousness and happiness. Why these struggles and endeavours, this generous and untiring fervour, if we are only to take note of actual existence, and to uphold it for what it may be worth? Clearly, in order to choose between given realities—in order to get beyond them—we must possess or try to find a criterion of truth and value distinguishable from these realities themselves. Whence shall we procure this criterion?
The reply is made: From instinct, from conscience, from the moral needs of human nature; for these, also, are facts.
The ambiguity underlying the theory becomes evident at this point. It is forgotten that we have to do with fact and fact. The suspension of the mercury in the barometrical tube is a fact: the consciousness of the idea of righteousness is likewise a fact. But these two facts are very different in kind. The first can be reduced to clearly defined, objective elements which will be represented in all minds by obviously identical ideas: the totality of such elements is what we call a scientific fact. The second is the representation of an ideal object. It contains, in very truth, an objective element, viz. the existence, in the knowing subject, of a certain idea—or rather of a certain feeling. But it is not this element which is here in question. There are in us a thousand other feelings, to which we do not attribute the same value: what we really want is to secure for this feeling the pre-eminence over the rest. It is not, therefore, to feeling, as such, that we make appeal: it is to the issues which are involved in it—righteousness, happiness, humanity, ideal solidarity. But righteousness and happiness are not objective and scientific facts. These are immediate, subjective representations, which, being incapable of analysis, cannot be described as scientific facts. They are crude notions, really comparable with those that science undertakes to criticise and to reduce, if it be possible, to fixed and measurable elements. They are even data which, if we believed in the verdict of consciousness upon which they are assumed to rest, would be irreducible to scientific facts, inasmuch as they express the claim of the human mind to correct reality, and to offer, for the investigation of future science, facts that are beyond the purview of actual science.
After long and careful peregrinations, we discover that we have been brought back to the point reached by Haeckel. In order to satisfy both the scientific demands and the moral demands of human nature, Haeckel placed side by side Darwin and Goethe, the struggle for life and the cult of Truth, Beauty and Goodness; and his system, in spite of its monistic title, assumed a dualistic character. With a view to obtaining the longed-for unity, we conceived, as a synthesis of knowledge and action, the ethical doctrine termed scientific; and up to now we have hardly done anything, by means of this formula, beyond securing the juxtaposition of two words. If, following its guidance, we apply ourselves to science—to science worthy of the name—we do not reach morality; if, again, we set out from the moral claims of man, we are unable to rejoin science. The mere assumption of a name does not entitle us to use it.
This dualism, into which we are continually relapsing be our endeavours to surmount it ever so great, is, it would seem, inseparable from the very problem to which we have devoted ourselves. The formula indicating this problem has been expressed very well by Haeckel: to satisfy, by the aid of scientific method, the needs—no less practical than speculative—of human nature.
Now, science is the knowledge and the organisation of scientific facts in their entirety. The requirements of human nature are only scientific in their physical basis—not in their purport, with which we are exclusively concerned at the moment. How, then, should we know a priori that science is able to bring man satisfaction? Are we not debarred with good reason, in the name of science, from all anthropomorphism, from every theory of pre-established harmony between man and things? Do we not constantly take up a defiant attitude toward conscience, toward feeling and desire, all of which are said to be out of harmony with objective reality? The dualism in which we are landed originates merely in the terms through which we have sought to harmonise science and the needs of man.
Both the religion of science and scientific morality demanded a critical estimate that these systems have failed to supply: an estimate of the intellectual and moral needs of the human spirit. Before endeavouring to satisfy these needs, it was necessary to inquire into their actual nature and value. If we had been able to show that they, also, are only facts: that everything in them which seems to be ideal or superior to the given, is illusory, i.e. reducible to this same “given” in accordance with natural laws, then indeed there would have been for us nothing but facts capable of being brought into line with other facts—with facts of a scientific character. Under such a view, all that recalls the supernatural, the absolute, the unknowable, the ideal, would then be definitively eliminated: science in the strict sense would be, for us, the relatively adequate representation of all existence; she herself would be our supreme requirement, our absolute, our ideal.
Die Welträtsel, chap. i.
Die Welträtsel, chap. i.
Die Welträtsel, chap. xii.
Die Welträtsel, Conclusion.
Der Monismus als Band, etc.
Die Welträtsel, chap, xviii.
Die Welträtsel, chap. xv.
Der Monismus, etc.
He, who possesses science and art, has religion also. He, who has them not, may have religion.
Eine Reise in die Schweiz, 1797.