The Science and Philosophy of Organism, vol. 1

  • Hans Adolf Eduard Driesch
1906 to 1908
University of Aberdeen

The main objective of Science and the Philosophy of Organism is a discussion of the philosophy of organism. The larger part of the work is devoted to providing the reader with the scientific background required to approach this main objective, which Driesch hopes will ultimately show not merely a loose connection between science and philosophy, but rather their close connection under a particular understanding. Nature is analysed as the Givenness of the One, and philosophy is understood as an endeavour to understand this Givenness. '[W]hether nature is studied with regard to what it actually is, that is to say, what really happens in it, or whether we try to discover which elemental parts of our mental organisation come into play in conceiving nature and what "nature" means in the sphere of metaphysics' (374-75) is of little difference – 'the first is generally called science, the latter philosophy. But in the last resort there is only one kind of human knowledge' (375). The philosophy of living nature is expounded on the basis of a thoroughgoing exposition of biological organism centred around three essential features: its form, metabolism and movement. Driesch sees the most important part of his philosophical account as the analysis he makes of the direct justification of entelechy.

The Principle of Individuality and Value

  • Bernard Bosanquet
1910 to 1912
University of Edinburgh

Bernard Bosanquet follows Plato in arguing that human life is a ‘finite’ expression of an infinite Mind underlying all of reality. The ‘world’ is a community of experiences, all of which point to a transcendent Mind within which we can expect to find our complete existence fulfilled. We get a hint of this through science, which seeks to establish ‘general rules’ governing many particular instances. Those general rules indicate that our ‘experience’ constantly tends toward the ‘universal’. The same goes for religious experience. Bosanquet theorizes that religion, or ‘religious consciousness’, as he calls it, cannot ‘prove’ the existence of God, but it can direct our minds toward the ‘infinite’. Even in ‘evil’ and ‘pain’ we can find something of the Absolute. Pain and evil are necessarily a part of our finite beings because they help us to realise the ‘good’ by contrasting with it. For Bosanquet, the ‘good’ is perfection and harmony within the universe, and human life is most valuable when we seek this ‘perfection’ intellectually and spiritually. ‘Evils’ and ‘suffering’ are the phenomena and sentiments that lead us away from this harmony. By resisting such pains, we come closer to harmony with the Absolute, and move away from the material satisfaction we are often led to pursue in our hedonistic lives.

The Place of Minds in the World

  • William Mitchell
1924 to 1926
University of Aberdeen

Mitchell gave two courses of Gifford Lectures, the first examining ‘The Place of Minds in the World’, and the second offering a treatise on their power. The published volume, however, incorporates material from the second course into the first. He begins his enquiry into the place of minds by noting their three places and the tension between them. Minds are in the world around us, and they are in the ‘cavity of the skull. They are also in a third place that is neither of these: the mind’s own place. There are gulfs between thoughts in the head and minds, between phenomena and nature and between knowledge and its objects. Mitchell examines such gulfs, their hold over us and how they might be overcome. The evolution of mental life, he concludes, advances nature to a world of objects and their power. Yet nature does not simply exist in the mind; rather, he ends with the thought that a growing thing is known from what it grows to.

The Concept of Nature

  • John S. Habgood
2000 to 2001
University of Aberdeen

The Concept of Nature is an expanded version of John Habgood’s Gifford Lectures delivered at the University of Aberdeen in 2000. The book explores the concept of ‘nature’ under a broad range of considerations. Attention is given to questions concerning the multiple meanings of the concept of ‘nature’, the use of the concept in the natural sciences, the concept in relation to the question of environmentalism and the concept with regard to its meaning in the field of morality. These considerations are brought together and considered in relation to the traditional beliefs about God. Nature is ultimately analysed as ‘a means through which the grace of God can be discerned and received’.


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