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Outlines of Metaphysic/Part 2

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SECOND PRINCIPAL DIVISION.

COSMOLOGY.

PRELIMINARY REMARK.[edit]

§ 49. The common apprehension of the World is the result of the following assumption: A multiplicity of self-subsisting Things produces the changeable course of the world by means of the fact that this multiplicity stands in reciprocal relations: these relations change; and with every such change there arises a change also in the peculiar states of the Things.

Now the assumption of a multiplicity of self-subsisting Things was shown to be impossible at the conclusion of the Ontology. But even the common opinion would not strictly carry out this assumption. For since it made the Things be related to one another, and made them all together form one world, it obviously pre-supposed the self-subsisting existence of some background, or some medium, which is, to be sure, not real itself, but in which the relations of one reality to another pursue their course.

Now the question arises: In what way can such a background, a non-real form, exist outside of what is real,—a form in which, by its arrangement, the ‘Reality’ presents to our view a coherent ‘world-whole’ a Cosmos? It scarcely need be stated, that Space and Time (and Motion) are the most essential of those forms, the consideration of which is incumbent upon Cosmology.




CHAPTER I.[edit]

OF SPACE, TIME, AND MOTION.


§ 50. Metaphysic does not raise the question,—at least not at first,—whence our ideas of space originate; but only what significance they have after they are finished, and what application can be made of them to the sphere of reality in consequence of such significance.

In accordance with the logical form of its mental representation, space is distinguished as an ‘intuition’ from the conceptions which we otherwise form of objects.

Every conception comprehends a general rule for the combination of certain marks, and requires obedience to this rule of every exemplar that is to fall under it. Such conception, however, leaves it perfectly indefinite upon how many, and upon what kind of exemplars it is itself to be stamped; nor does it establish between the particular exemplars the slightest reciprocal relation to be of necessity followed by them. For what is called the co-ordination of such species or exemplars within the sphere of their general notion, is merely significant of the community of their subordination under this general notion, but of absolutely no other definite relation on the part of one exemplar to another.

Everything spatial is also subjected to such a common rule of combination, and this rule may be expressed, for example, as follows: Between any two separate points one, and only one, straight line is possible. But this law does not merely hold good for every single case of application, separately; for example, for every single pair of points in such manner as to leave it quite doubtful how this pair is related to another pair that follows the same law. On the contrary, it is just this law which likewise combines all cases of its application together in such a way that every pair of points stands in the same relation of law to every other pair, as do the points of every single pair.

Space appears to us, therefore, not as a Universal which occurs in a certain indefinite number of examples that are in other respects without any coherence; but it appears as a Whole which combines, as its parts into a synchronous sum, all the particular cases of the application of the law that prevails in it, in accordance with this same law.

This is the reason why the name for space chosen by Kant,—viz., an intuition,—is to be preferred to that of conception: there is only one space, and this space is continuously extant; all particular spaces are only parts of this Whole, and are likewise continuously present.

§ 51. The customary opinion, for just the reason mentioned above, very easily apprehends space as a ready-made, empty, and yet self-subsisting ‘form,’ which precedes and furnishes a place to whatever is real.

The conception of such a form, however, is not a general notion borrowed from examples elsewhere, and justified by means of these examples;—a conception which could be used for the explanation of space, because space might be brought under it. The conception originated rather from the analogy of space-containing vessels, which can pass for ‘empty forms’ merely in a relative way; because some other material can be put into the space included by them. But the vessels themselves consist of some real material, and are therefore not ‘empty forms’ in the sense in which space might be called so. That the conception of an empty form, which is framed by nothing real, but precedes everything real, is in itself impossible, follows from the consideration of this very example.

Those other expressions, which style space ‘the total of the relations of things,’ or ‘the arrangement of things,’ or ‘the total of the proportions between them,’ are all erroneous in that they do not at all express what we actually mean by space. For, in fact, space is not at all a definite arrangement, or relation, or form of things; but only the possibility of all this: it is the incomprehensible principle,—in itself wholly without form, arrangement, and relation,—which makes possible indefinitely many different ‘forms,’ ‘arrangements,’ or ‘relations’ of things.

§ 52. If space were actually a cohering totality of relations between ‘Things,’ then, for that very reason, it could not possibly have any existence of its own, independent of things and comprising or preceding them.

It is true that we are accustomed to speak of relations as though they could actually exist between things in such a manner as to bind together two of them without being themselves in either one of the two. This manner of mental representation, however, is quite obviously a simple consequence of our intuition of space; for, by means of this intuition, it is impossible to represent under the word ‘between’ any mere negation of reality (any mere not-being); but it is possible to represent only a positive, intuitive kind of that distinct or separate being which belongs to the elements of reality.

Space itself, therefore, cannot be proved to have an independent existence by an appeal to relations which are held to have existed between reality, and yet to have been neither a mere nothing, nor such reality itself. The truth is rather that space furnishes merely the inducement to correct this false idea of the relations, and to become aware that, in fact, nothing can be outside of ‘the Existent’; and, therefore, that nothing ‘is’ but the Existent and its interior states.

Accordingly, if relations of space cannot pass for inner states of ‘Things,’ but are obliged and designed merely to pass for external relations between them, then it follows that they can only exist as inner states of the spirit which is percipient of the things,—that is to say, as forms of our intuition; but they have no such existence of themselves as to make our intuition a mere means for perceiving them.

Finally, if what is said above is true with reference to all the determinate relations in which things appear actually to be standing at a determinate moment of time, and therefore of the space-picture that the world preserves at the aforesaid moment of time, then it is yet much more true of the universal idea of infinite empty space, which as such is merely a possibility of relations. Much more is it true that such space cannot exist except as a mental picture, which originates only in and for our intuition, whenever this intuition is reminded of that—occurring in all its individual space-intuitions—which is common to them all and conformable to law.

§ 53. The above proposition concerning the ‘ideal character of Space’ is established by Kant on somewhat different grounds; and it was used by him and his school chiefly in order to make conspicuous the perfect incomparableness of the true nature of Things to the apparent form which they assume in our intuition.

But such expressions as the following—“Space is a subjective form of intuition which we set over against ‘Things,’ and into which things fall only as seen from our point of view, although they are in themselves quite incomparable to all that is spatial”—are contradictory; because, of course, whatever is assumed to be able even to ‘fall into’ any form or other, must necessarily somehow or other be commensurate with this form: it cannot, therefore, be absolutely incomparable to it.

On the other hand, we do not have merely the empty intuition of infinite space; but we perceive in space different phenomena at places which we cannot perceive in another order at our pleasure, but must see as they are. There must, consequently, be a reason in the things which assigns to them these determinate places. That is to say, even if Things are not themselves spatial, and even if no relations of space subsist between themselves, still there must be other non-spatial or intellectual relations, which can be portrayed in general by means of space-relations, and which in special furnish the reason why, whenever they are apprehended in space-form by any intuition, each thing must appear to be at a determinate point of space.

§ 54. If inquiry is made, In what do the ‘intellectual relations’ of Things consist?—then it would not suffice to look for them merely in the likeness or similarity, and different degrees of relationship and opposition, which belong to their natures. For all this is unalterably fixed for every two things; the spatial arrangement of the world would, therefore, if it be dependent only thereon, always be the same. But since things change their place, the reason for their various places must lie in the reciprocal effects which they exercise upon each other in a changeable way.

With the above assumption the inaccuracy of the expression cited in the foregoing article is likewise rectified; namely, ‘intellectual relations’ can as little take place between things as can other relations. There exist only the states with which each thing is interiorly affected; and this is certainly not, as the ordinary opinion assumes, by virtue of a ‘relation’ between two things antecedent to such reciprocal causation and furnishing its reason, but is without any media whatever. It is not until after the ‘Things’ because they are all together mere modifications of one Absolute, have immediately and without any intervening mechanism acted upon each other, that they appear to our thinking (if it compares this case of their causal action with that of their non-action) to stand in a ‘relation’ which conditions the action; whilst,—precisely the reverse,—their causal action, if it is to be thought of, merely compels our thinking to place the ideas of things in another relation than if their non-action is to be thought of.

Finally, it is self-evident that the bare reciprocal action of two things a and b is no reason at all, why our soul (c) should have an intuition of a and b in general; and still less in any definite order. On the contrary, it is only because a and b, by virtue of their nature and by virtue of the states with which they are themselves affected by each other, act upon c (our soul) and produce in it the impressions α and β, that the soul can be necessitated to perceive a and b in general, and indeed, on account of the definite degree of relationship or opposition which takes place between α and β, to have an intuition of them in a definite reciprocal position. Whilst, at another moment when, by virtue of an altered reciprocal action between a and b, α and β also pass over into the new values α1 and β1, the soul will have an intuition of both in a correspondingly different spatial order.

§ 55. According to the ordinary view, therefore, space exists and things exist in it: according to our view, only Things exist, and between them nothing exists, but space exists in them. That is to say, to the individual being the other beings with which it stands, either immediately or mediately, in reciprocal causation, appear arranged in one space according to the kind and magnitude of the effect exercised upon this being by them,—a space which is extended merely within the individual as its intuition, and in which it assigns to itself a definite place.

Kant had understood the ‘ideal character of Space’ in such a way as to make space only a human form of intuition; other and higher beings may not be restricted to it. The later systems endeavored, on the contrary, to abolish this anthropomorphic limitation. They either sought diligently for the proof that space is a necessary logical result of the development of that total Idea which strives after its manifestation everywhere in the world (like the idealistic systems of Schelling and Hegel); or else they imagined to show how the apprehension of space must inevitably arise in every being which forms ideas at all, and combines manifold ideas with each other (like the realistic systems of Herbart and others). Not one of such deductions escapes the blame of having, in some manner or other, secretly smuggled in under the abstract conceptions from which it was to be deduced, the specifically spatial element of space,—the very thing, therefore, which was to be deduced. A decisive sentence, accordingly, seems impossible. Although it is very improbable that the World should appear to other beings as non-spatial and yet intuitive in some other fashion, still the necessity of the intuition of space for every percipient being does not admit of demonstration.

§ 56. We certainly do not by any means possess an immediate intuition of infinite ‘Time,’ but merely one that is obtained by help of the intuition of space, and, at the same time, in opposition to it. That is to say: When we conceive of a line in space, the points of which all exist together in like fashion, we gain from it a complete intuitive picture applicable to the precisely opposite case of time, whose line consists of points, of which each one exists only when the other does not exist.

The above-mentioned fact is aptly enough designated by the customary definition: Space is the form of that which has juxtaposition; time, the form of that which has succession. This ‘succession,’ however, consists in a one-sided dependence of any two states of an actual being, α1 and α2, in such manner that α1 is the condition of the actuality of α2, but not α2 of the actuality of α1. If we represent the individual cases conceivable of the occurrence of this dependence, as summarized in one (of course, infinite) whole, and if we represent them, indeed, as following the same law which holds good for every individual case; then there arises the intuition of infinite ‘empty Time,’ every moment of which, on one side, depends upon one of its neighbors, and, on the other side, furnishes the ground for another of its neighbors.

Considerations quite similar to those in the case of space teach us that no substantial existence, however constituted, can appertain to time also; but that it must exist only as an intuition in the representative act of the spirit. It is not necessary to examine in detail the contradictions in which the two attempts to conceive of objective time involve us, to wit:—

(1) Motionless empty time, in which events elapse, is, so far as it is motionless, not ‘time,’ but another back-ground, on which, in order to elapse, the events themselves are afresh in need of time;

(2) Elapsing empty time, which takes the events along with itself, can, in fact, neither elapse, since no moment in it is different from another, nor take the events along, since no one of its moments has any more relation than another to any one definite event.

If we carry out the above consideration we are led to the following result: Empty time neither is, nor elapses, between events or before them; but, if the living causal action of ‘Things’ upon each other as arranged in definite one-sided relations of dependence become the object of perception for a percipient being, then in each case that which conditions must appear to precede, that which is conditioned to follow, and the total occurrence to elapse within the course of an infinite time.

§ 57. The mental representation of the abovementioned ‘ideal character of time’ is much more difficult to apprehend than the analogous one of space, to wit:—

In order to have an intuition of the supersensible relations of the manifold in the form of space, the soul itself is in no need of space; or,—the soul can bring forth what is spatial, as the product of its own act of intuition, without its productive procedure itself requiring to be spatial. If, on the contrary, we say,—Relations of a manifold, that really have no time-form, appear in time-form, if they act upon a percipient being,—then we presuppose either, at the very least this causal action as an event elapsing in time; or else, if we should intend to assume that this action also is a timeless impression, it still appears as though our mental act of representation could not posit one part of the aforesaid manifold as previous, and the other as subsequent, without accomplishing the very act of positing the first, previously, and the act of positing the second, subsequently. Even if, therefore, everything that has time-form were eliminated from the entire objective world, it still appears that the act of intuition itself would require time for the procedure by means of which it has the intuition of that which really has no time-form, as though it were in time.

To the above objection we now reply, that—quite the contrary—we should never have a mental representation of that which is ‘successive,’ if our act of representation were itself successive. In such a case, to be sure, we should represent a first, and b afterward; but only by means of a third act of mental representation, nevertheless, should we descry the fact that these two representations followed each other in us; and for this third act they do not follow each other, but are comprehended in one synchronous intuition,—although in such manner that, according to its nature, a is placed before b as its conditioning reason, that is to say, as previous to it.

However extraordinarily difficult it may be to alter the mental habit opposed to such a view, still we are compelled to consider in like manner even our whole life, and the succession of events allotted to us as it arises in our recollections. We are not indeed denying that the aforesaid one-sided dependence of its constituent parts, which we regard as succession in time because we are necessitated to apprehend it in one mental act under the form of time, really subsists within that timeless actuality of which alone our assertions were made. We are merely denying that an empty time, existing outside of events and outside of our act of representation, is required in order -that the aforesaid one-sided dependence may take place, or appear to us, as sequence of time.

Even the whole of our life, therefore, is a whole so articulated that all the other parts seem to stand in definite intervals of nearer or more remote relation to that particular consciousness which is filled up with one part of the same whole; that is to say, the series of states which furnish the condition for this particular moment of time, must appear to the consciousness of the moment as a longer or briefer ‘time-past.’

§ 58. Secondly, an objection to the ideal character of time, fundamentally the same as the foregoing, can be formulated as follows: A happening or an acting that has not time-form is in itself inconceivable, yet must be assumed if we would intend to maintain the appearance in time of that which is really without time-form.

Now it is correct, that we, because we are once for all bound to the form of time-intuition, do always apprehend happening and causal acting as in time, and that happening without time-form is a contradiction of the usages of speech. But, on the other hand, it will be seen that the essential thought which constitutes the conception of causal action,—namely, the thought of the efficient conditioning of one thing by means of another,—does not require ‘time’ to validate it. That is to say: The existence or the elapse of an ‘empty time’ can never make any more intelligible than it would be without this, precisely how an a sets about it in order to condition or produce a b. As soon as the complete reason for b lies within a, then time can have nothing to do with making the existence of b more easy or more difficult. If, in experience, an elapse of time appears to us necessary in order that the cause a may bring forth its effect z, nevertheless time does not in such a case work favorably by means of its empty extension between a and z; on the contrary, it is only because a is not the immediate reason for z, but simply the reason for b, b for c, c for d, . . ., y for z, that a cannot pass over into z except by means of a series of intermediate states which is represented to our intuition as the rilling up of a definite duration of time.

§ 59. We cannot define ‘Motion’ in a primitive way as the passing through of a certain space. This could be said only in case space were somewhat objective which could be passed through, or the passing through of which required to be made good as a kind of performance or work. But space is only an intuition for us; and even for us not primo loco an intuition of an infinite magnitude of extension, but—stated accurately—only the mental representation of that coherent system of places which appertain to the different real elements, by virtue of their supersensible relations to one another in our intuition.

‘Motion,’ therefore, means for us primarily ‘change of place.’ To wit: If those relations between ‘Things’ (real elements), for the sake of which the latter must appear at determinate places, are changed, then the things must appear at the new places which the sum of their changed relations prescribes to them.

§ 60. If we added nothing further to what has already been said, then it would follow from our definition, that a thing ceases to appear at its old place α, and begins to appear at its new place ω, without having appeared in all the points between α and ω,—that is to say, without having passed through the distance α ω. But such an event happens only in fairy tales; in the realm of actuality, a thing changes its place merely in case it passes over from the previous place α to the new one ω through all the intermediate places.

Made attentive by experience in the foregoing manner, we recognize the incompleteness of our metaphysical conception of motion, and endeavor to supplement it. For this purpose, however, it does not suffice to appeal to ‘a universal law of continuity,’ according to which a transition can be made from a magnitude of one value (α) to another of the same kind (ω) only by passing through all the intermediate values. For, in itself, this proposition is only a law of our mathematical imagination, and affirms: If two fixed values, α and ω, are given, then the difference between them is not arbitrary but is also fixed; and, in thought, the α cannot be made to increase to ω, without adding the total difference ωα; nor can this be, without previously thinking of every one of its parts as added to α. On the contrary, the question which interests us,—namely, whether ‘Things in themselves’ are bound by the same law which our mental representation follows, is by no means decided by this method.

We look for its decision in the following way: the place α of a being a is fixed by means of its relation to b, c, . . . z. The reason for a new place ω occurs whenever the relation which previously existed between c and d is changed. Just so the reason for another new place ω1 of the same being, whenever the previous relation between f and g is changed. If now both the reasons, last alluded to, for the new place of the being were fixed only by their qualitative content,—that is to say, in this case, by the situation of the place which they require to have,—then there would exist no principle of decision, in accordance with which one of these reasons, if they operated simultaneously, must be preferred to, or made equal with, the other. We are therefore compelled to apprehend every relation which fixes one of these places, not merely as a fixing of this place in opposition to some other, but at the same time as a magnitude of the force with which the relation strives to fulfil the demand made on it.

Now the same thing holds good also of that relation which fixed the original place α of a thing; it, too, must be apprehended as a magnitude which withstands the reason for the new place ω, and does not simply disappear when the reason occurs at ω, but requires to be overcome by it. This takes place only by means of the magnitude α vanishing through all the intermediate values down to the zero-point; and by means of the reason for ω thus increasing correspondingly until it obtains the intensity which, possibly, remains with it after the removal of α, and which now fixes the new place ω.

Now if, as a universal rule, the totality of the relations of one ‘Thing’ to all the others is the reason for its appearance at a fixed place, then all the changed relations, which successively occur during the conflict of both the aforesaid reasons, must also manifest themselves in an unbroken sequence of the phenomena of the ‘Thing’ at intermediate places fixed by these reasons. That is to say: The element moved passes from its old place α to the new one ω only in case it appears in regular succession at all the points between α and ω; and therefore (in the simplest case) traverses in space the length of the straight line α ω.

§ 61. If motion is change of place, it would further seem to follow that it must cease of itself after attaining the new place which is fixed by the changed relations. This contradicts the well-known principle of mechanics (that of the persistence of motion, or ‘inertia’), according to which every motion once begun continues in a straight line and uniformly to infinity, if it is not hindered.

Of the correctness of the above-mentioned law there is no doubt. A direct metaphysical deduction of it, however, is impossible; for all the more general points of view, to which it could be referred back, are unproductive. For example: The proposition that the conditioned effect must disappear with the cessation of the conditioning cause (a proposition which runs counter to the law) is obviously not universally correct; since there are numerous effects which require indeed a productive cause, but do not require for their continuation a maintaining cause. But the contradictory proposition,—Whatever once is or happens, that just is and happens, and can never of itself cease to be, but must be done away with by means of somewhat that is and happens of a similar kind—may, indeed, express the fact; yet it is not so lucid as to be esteemed a self-evident necessity of thought, or strictly deducible from other propositions.

Nothing else seems to be left but the attempt to demonstrate the law of the ‘persistence of motion’ in apagogical fashion as a necessary postulate. We pass it over to the philosophy of nature to show that no motion or ‘Becoming’ of any kind whatever could actually take place, that the length of no line of finite magnitude could be traversed, unless the effect, which the cause productive of the motion brings about in an element by means of a momentary action, is regarded as a velocity,—that is to say, as an effort to traverse a definite space in every unit of time to all eternity.




CHAPTER II.[edit]

OF MATTER.


§ 62. In experience we meet with various sensuous images which we call ‘bodies,’ and in them all, in spite of their variety, with certain common modes of behavior, such as extension and resistance to the diminution of the space occupied (‘impenetrability’), etc. These modes of behavior, when taken altogether, we can designate as ‘the attribute of materiality’; and every sensuous image that has this attribute is, on this account, called a material substance. It is the problem of Metaphysic to show, in what manner certain of themselves supersensible, unextended, real beings, can furnish us with those sensuous images called ‘matter.’

If it is replied to the above question, that what is aforesaid takes place because one and the same matter is existent in all these bodies, but that it is once for all time made the peculiarity of this matter to be extended and to offer resistance; then manifestly, on the one hand, the materiality is not explained, and, on the other hand, a hypothesis is introduced which were admissible only on the supposition that it had special reasons from another quarter in its support. For otherwise it is just as conceivable that ‘Materiality’ depends upon a formal mode of the combination of real elements, without these elements requiring to be alike as respects their essence. If this latter assumption is still to be made, it must furnish express grounds from another quarter for such an identity of all reality.

Finally, it is obvious that ‘one matter,’ or ‘universal matter,’ can never be spoken of as though it were barely matter and nothing further. Since ‘materiality’ is, rather, simply a formal attribute that presupposes a subject conceivable of itself to which it appertains, this ‘universal matter’ also must be discriminated as a concretely determinate essence from other conceivable but not actual kinds of matter.

§ 63. The attempts at an explanation of matter can proximately have two distinct designs:

The realistic systems which seek everywhere for the causal connection of actuality, and accordingly inquire under what conditions aught arises, endures, and perishes, in their explanations arrive at special ‘constructions of matter,’—that is to say, at attempts at comprehending how materiality is constituted out of certain reciprocal effects or activities of elements that are in themselves non-material but real.

The idealistic systems, which set their heart only on the significance that the existence of every individual has for the complete expression of the one comprehensive World-Idea, arrive merely at ‘deductions of matter’;—that is to say, they show that the existence of matter is indispensable, if the aforesaid World-Idea is to attain complete expression: but they do not tell in what manner this postulate is actually fulfilled.

A great crowd of attempts, finally, have not made this distinction between the two designs at all clear to themselves, and vacillate confusedly between construction and deduction.

§ 64. Kant’s theory of the ‘Construction of matter’ contains,—

(1) the correct thought that matter does not fill space with its bare existence; since, in itself considered, the co-existence of innumerable things at precisely the same spot involves no contradiction. Although one portion of matter resists the penetration of another, or even its own disruption, still it does this by means of the forces of attraction and repulsion which it exercises on other portions of matter, and, as well, within itself from part to part; and it is on this latter exercise of the forces that even its own extension depends. But

(2) fault is to be found with this construction of matter in that it is never made quite clear who the subjects are which exercise the aforesaid forces. If that which attracts or repels, is itself already extended body, then it is not ‘matter,’ but only the subsequent behavior of ready-made material objects toward one another, which is constructed by it. If the aforesaid subjects are not matter, then they must be so-called ‘Things-in-themselves.’ But since Kant did not permit any kind of positive assertions concerning such entities, they could not be made use of in this connection; and the deficiency in clearness still remains. Later adherents of Kant, like Fries, simply confessed that the subject of those forces is already ‘matter,’ and that it is incomprehensible how this matter itself comes into being.

(3) Finally: Kant, from reasons not to be pursued in this connection, had a special interest in having continuous space filled up by matter also continuous; and, therefore, in having the various condensations and rarefactions of bodies explained, not by the diminution or—respectively—the augmentation of the empty spaces between their alleged atoms, but in such manner that the larger space should be just as completely filled up as the smaller by the self-expansive matter. Such a thing appeared possible to him by means of the assumption that the two forces of repulsion and attraction could increase or diminish in various proportions; and from this there results a continuous condensation and rarefaction. On the contrary, it must be remembered that the assumption of two opposed forces belonging to the same subject in relation to the same object remains an insoluble contradiction; and, as well, that no insight at all can be gained into the question, by what means a change in the strength of one or the other force should be brought about.

§ 65. Herbart’s ‘Construction of matter’ begins

(1) with an accurate specification of the subjects concerning which he is to discourse. Real beings of simple quality and devoid of all extension, they have positions in space that are mere mathematical points. So far as their nature is concerned, they need have no relation to each other, and do not, in themselves, act upon each other. Still they can enter into a certain relation to one another, in which the differences of their qualities become the cause of their reciprocal action. This relation is called the ‘Propinquity’ (das ‘Zusammen’) of the real beings; in what it consists is not systematically stated. But after

(2) this effectuating relation has once attained this spatial title of ‘propinquity,’ the actual spatial meaning of this word is by a subreption regarded as identical with abstract ontological ‘propinquity,’ and therefrom arises the following assumption: Real beings act on each other only when in spatial contact. Hence it follows

(3) with reference to the construction of matter: Matter cannot consist of real beings separated by intervening spaces. For since these beings could not in such a case act upon each other, they could not possibly have any cohesiveness whatever. But real beings, since they are unextended, can have no contact with each other; they would, if they attempted it, all fall together in a single point, and the ‘matter’ obtain no extension. On this account, finally,—

(4) the impossible demand is set up, that the unextended real beings must be partly within, and partly outside of each other, in order to give rise to both the cohesiveness and the extension of matter. No theory has ever been able to make it intelligible in what way such a thing as this is to be conceived of.

§ 66. The fault of this last theory of the construction of matter consists in space being regarded, though in a concealed fashion, as an actually existent yet unreal medium, which can accomplish some resistance to the reciprocal actions of things, in case they are remote from each other.

According to our view, however, the remoteness of two elements from each other is only the form in which we behold the magnitude and diversity of those reciprocal actions of Things, upon us and upon each other, that have already taken place; and such a phenomenon, therefore, can neither be regarded as a favoring or hindering condition for those reciprocal actions on which the phenomenon itself depends. That is to say,—briefly expressed: All real elements can act immediately at and from any degree of remoteness; and it is just by means of these actions that they prescribe to one another the places in space at which they are to appear.

Matter consists, therefore, of a multiplicity of real beings, each of which is of a super-sensible nature and unextended, and all of which, by means of influence acting at a distance, prescribe to one another the reciprocal position that belongs to each as a spatial expression for all its intellectual relations to all the rest.

Matter does not, therefore, continuously fill a space; but it consists of discrete elements between which there exist intervals where nothing real is found. Still it would permit of easy demonstration that such a system of interacting particles distributed in space, on occasion of its reciprocal action with other systems similarly composed, or by means of its reactions on an external influence of any kind, would exhibit perfectly the same sensible properties which we customarily suppose should be ascribed only to a ‘matter’ that fills up its space without any break.

§ 67. Concerning the conception of ‘Force’ of which use was made above in an accessory way, what follows holds good: If two elements a and b fall into a definite relation C, then for such a case there always prevails a universal law, according to which a certain consequence X must originate (it must in general consist of some alteration of a and b). Now because this law prevails universally, we are able to transpose this achievement of producing X from the future into the present, and ascribe the capacity for it to the elements a and b as a property constantly inhering in them,—that is to say, as a ‘force.’

The above-mentioned expression is not accurate. For this capacity does not belong to the a absolutely, but only in case that it stand in some relation with b. This law is observed in physics by never speaking—when wishing to be accurate—of the force of a single element, but always of the force which two elements exercise upon each other; in this way the fact is recognized that force is not, properly speaking, a constant attribute of the elements, but a capacity for an achievement that arises in them under certain conditions. The same fact is expressed by modes of speech that are in themselves devoid of significance: The force is said to be existent in a, but latent, and to be exerted only under determinate conditions (conditions under which, rather, it first originates).

Further, the effect which arises between a and b is also dependent on the relation (C) between them, and on its alterations. Speaking accurately, this means that at each moment there originates from the sum of all conditions a force valid for this moment; and at the next moment a fresh force from the altered conditions. If it is assumed, however, that, so long as a and b remain the same, the form of their reciprocal action (be it attraction or repulsion) is not altered without the intermixture of a third cause, and that, likewise, the alterations in the intensity of this action are proportional to the alterations in the magnitudes of the relation C; then this assumption can be expressed, for use, as follows: The element a constantly possesses a force that is invariable so far as its form of action is concerned,—for example, attraction; but its exertion depends on the alterations of a condition, C (for example, the distance between a and b) according to an assignable law.

Finally, nothing at all hinders a and b from exercising a quite different reciprocal action y under a quite different relation Γ; or hinders a from developing a quite different action z in relation to a second quite different element e. Following the above manner of representation, we can ascribe simultaneously to the same element a the many forces x, y, z, . . . that are partially opposed to one another. A contradiction were involved in this only in case these forces were regarded as properties of a with an actual constant existence; the contradiction vanishes, because each of these forces belongs to a only under certain conditions, and, indeed, each force under different conditions from the others.

§ 68. It were a conceivable possibility that the unity of one real Being,—in virtue of its synchronous relations to several others that, in turn, are compelled by their relations to still other beings to be at different positions,—were necessitated to appear simultaneously at different points of space; and our conviction with regard to space would readily permit of this as possible without annulling the inner unity of this Being with manifold phenomenal aspects. Nevertheless, such a thing as this were conceivable only on the condition that none of these phenomena, too, should maintain an independent existence; that is to say, every influence which touches one of them must eo ipso touch the whole real Being, and there must never be any process of mediation required in order to transmit the states suffered by one apparent part of this Being to another part.—Of this truth there are three applications:

(1) For example, all bits of gold in the world could be regarded as locally different phenomena of a single ‘gold-substance.’ But the experience that what happens to one bit of gold is altogether a matter of indifference to another bit remote from the first, teaches us that no unity of substance belonging to all gold is assumable, in any serviceable meaning of the words; the rather that the individual bits of gold are independent real substances.

(2) It could be assumed, as was previously found of use, that there are unextended, definitely shaped, indivisible ‘atoms.’ If such a statement is not merely to mean that, in the present course of nature, certain very minute particles undergo no alteration, because the requisite conditions for this alteration are not forthcoming; but if it is to mean that every atom is, according to its very conception, a unity of being in itself real and indivisible, whose simultaneous appearance at all points of a limited volume is necessary for reasons alluded to above: then it would be apparent that this assumption of its real unity does away with the advantages which it was designed to get from its extension and form. For it is wont to be assumed that these atoms have one or more axes, at the terminal points of which their action is different. But this is incompatible with the unity of the reality throughout the entire volume, and is only compatible with the assumption of a multiplicity of active parts which are independent; and it is by means of the relations in the positions of these parts that the different properties of the different points give conditions to the total form of the atom.

(3) The assumption that one matter fills a limited volume continuously, while being likewise divisible ad infinitum, and yet before division does not consist of parts, but is a real unity, is impossible for the same reasons. Whatever permits of separation from a totality in such manner as to be, when separated, completely independent and able to exercise forces that are qualitatively the same precisely as those of the aforesaid totality,—only diminished in proportion to its magnitude,—that must already have existed in the aforesaid totality itself as an independent element, or system of elements; and such totality cannot have been an individual being, but must have been simply the resultant of a composition of such independent elements.

After all has been said, we come back to the view which is the one now taken for granted also in physics,—namely,

Every volume filled up with matter consists of an infinite number of real beings, which in themselves have no extension, but which, by means of their intellectual relations to one another, prescribe places in space that are merely mathematical points; and these, by means of the sum of all their reciprocal actions, effectuate both extension in general, and also the form, cohesion, and force of resistance that belong to the extended whole.




CHAPTER III.[edit]

OF THE COHERENCY OF NATURAL EVENTS.


§ 69. On considering the conception of causality, it was found that the various real beings which underlie the course of nature, when taken together, must be, either directly or indirectly, comparable; that none of them need be a Unicum whose nature were disparate from that of all the rest; but rather that all the contents which constitute the nature of ‘Being’ must form a coherent system in which each of them has its fixed place. It was further shown that all real beings ultimately can only be modifications of one single infinite Reality.

Both these propositions we are to apply to the inquiry whether there is in nature only one Matter, or matter diversified into species.

If the term ‘one matter’ is understood to mean that there is one actuality, from which the apparently different elements in the course of nature actually proceed, and to which they return, in such manner that this (one) ‘matter’ is the unvarying point of transition through which the creative force of the Infinite brings forth the particular elements in time; then the decision of the question belongs entirely to experience. Experience, to be sure, has hitherto not demonstrated a transition of the chemical elements into one another, or their derivation from one universal original matter; but at least a considerable diminution of the number of elements is not improbable in its view.

If, on the contrary, we should consider the individual elements as modifications—constant and unalterable in the course of nature—of that ‘one matter’ which, in this case, would have no separate existence at all outside of these elements; then this thought has no speculative value. For it would only combine—and that in inept fashion—the assertion of the existence of the aforesaid elements with the thought (correct enough in itself) that all these elements possess a series of common properties, on account of which the conception of ‘materiality’ belongs to them. Now it follows from the first of the propositions alluded to above, that, if we conceive of the totality of these properties which are formative of ‘materiality,’ as constituting the essence of a ‘Thing’; then the nature of each particular kind of matter must always admit of being expressed as a modification or function of this ‘universal matter’; but without such ‘universal matter,’ on this account, underlying realiter the individual elements in the form of a ‘stuff’ modified by them.

As a consequence, therefore, from all that has previously been said, we derive the following proposition: The one infinite Reality is without media organized into a system of specifically diversified elements. But since its diversity must always admit of comparability, the diversified elements are equivalent one with another (of course, according to a diversified measure), in relation to one and the same effect chosen for the purpose of comparison. Because they are ultimately equivalent, they always admit of being apprehended as mere modifications or functions of one and the same fundamental Essence; and this essence, called ‘universal matter,’ can therefore serve as a very useful formula for the calculation of events, without signifying any separate real actuality.

§ 70. The order of natural occurrences must be considered from two points of view: first, inquiry can be directed toward the Plan which rules in the combination of things and occurrences; and, second, inquiry must be directed toward the general Laws of procedure according to which each step in the actualization of that plan is brought about.

The very separation of these two inquiries, however, forms the essential character of a mechanical view of nature, in the most general sense of this word as opposed to many more restricted significations which it has acquired in the natural sciences.

The principle of such ‘Mechanism’ consists in the following truth: Everything that happens in nature depends upon real elements which, even if they do not belong to one ‘stuff,’ nevertheless admit of being regarded as modifications of a single whole,—that is to say, as measures comparable with each other. Whatever the inner states may be into which these elements fall by means of their action on one another, the kinetic energies in which the same elements express themselves are always comparable with one another; and their alterations are connected with definite mathematical conditions (position, distance, etc.).

At every moment, therefore, at which two beings, a and b, occur in a certain combination C, this circumstance furnishes the sufficient reason for one, and only one consequence X; and, throughout, if either a or b or C, or all together, is altered, the alteration of the consequence X into Ξ, which is necessarily connected therewith, admits of being calculated according to an invariable law. That is to say, in other words: No momentary state of a being, when in combination with a definite sum of external circumstances, can ever produce more than one definite effect; and, conversely, every effect that arises is just what ensues from those given conditions with inflexible necessity.

§ 71. Now, within the limits of this mechanical view, a definite plan for the coherency of events can be considered as realizable only in case the content of this plan (quite apart from all design that might be striving to accomplish it) is besides the unavoidable result of a definite combination of given circumstances.

The whole of the course of nature is, on the mechanical view, to be traced back with inflexible necessity to the supposition of an original position and original motion of the elements,—a position and a motion which are taken for granted as primitive and not to be deduced from anything further back;—as well as to general laws, according to which this particular result ensued from this particular beginning, while from another beginning a quite different result would have ensued.

Every more circumscribed example of development according to a plan, this view regards as a single case in which, out of the general course of nature, and fully accounted for by it, single groups of its elements are arranged into a totality whose cohering unity consists only in the reciprocal actions of the combined elements themselves.

In opposition to the above view another is advanced, which discovers not impossibility, to be sure, but absurdity, in the thorough-going maintenance of this mechanical doctrine. From reasons which we are to estimate later, the thought is held to be insupportable that not merely some casual structure, but even a phenomenon which, like organism, obviously expresses a most significant idea, is assumed not to develop from within itself, but to be merely the inevitable resultant of many conditions in themselves indifferent to one another, and only co-operating as a matter of fact.

For this reason it is denied that everything in nature is the necessary result of circumstances; and the conception of an organic or dynamic ‘impulse’ is opposed to that of a physical or mechanical ‘force.’

‘Force’ is always—in the way previously shown—a constantly like capacity for an ever like achievement; only with respect to its intensity is it alterable under quite definite conditions. ‘Impulse,’ on the contrary, is a faculty for very manifold achievements; and which of these shall be exercised at each moment does not depend, at least absolutely, on conditioning circumstances that actually exist, but on regard for an end that does not yet exist, but is impending.

Concerning ‘force’ the further assertion was made, that it is compelled always to achieve whatever, under given conditions, it is able to achieve. Concerning ‘impulse’ the assertion is made, that it is able to keep back a part of its effect; in other cases to reinforce or somewhat alter its activity,—of course, with reference to the goal that is to be reached.

‘Force’ was never known to pass over from one form of causal action to another without a definite inducement: ‘Impulse’ on the contrary, begins its effects, starting from a state of rest, by means that lie within itself.

Now it is through its own action that the living totality to which impulse appertains, is held to define for itself its own form and the connection of its development; but the external real elements it employs as means in its service.

§ 72. Let it now be supposed that such an impulse of development were considered as the attribute of a single real Being; and let it be left undecided how this impulse were in itself possible: still the other question remains, namely, Under what conditions can it accomplish that which is ascribed to it?

If now one Being is to accommodate itself to the changeable circumstances with a changeable activity, in such manner that the latter is at the same time always adapted to a definite final purpose, then it is necessary

(1) that the Being experience some influence in general from the aforesaid circumstances, and, besides, that the influence be changeable and proportional to the variety of the circumstances;

(2) that this influence in the Being itself beget a reaction which is adjusted not merely with reference to it, but also with reference to its relation to the final purpose.

The further question now arises, In what way the final purpose—that is to say, a somewhat that is to be, but as yet is not—can be represented in this Being in such manner as to be able to exercise its co-determining influence upon these reactions.

From our point of view such a thing is conceivable only in case the Being either has a consciousness of the final purpose, and, consequently, the idea of the purpose as a living state of this Being is the force which can give conditions to the other states of the Being, and so to its own reactions, too; or else in case the Being works unconsciously indeed, but its unconscious nature is originally constructed therefor in such a manner that the various impressions which various conditions bring to pass in it, undesignedly and necessarily combine into the totality of the development required.

In the last case, this development is quite obviously a perfectly mechanical result; and is not at all distinguished from the rest of mechanism by means of any peculiar principle of action, but merely by means of a special nature belonging to the subject which is active, and yet conditioned by the circumstances in a purely mechanical way. In the first case, the same thing is true, only in a more concealed fashion. For the idea of the final purpose, too, cannot determine the method of its accomplishment which the moment requires, in a manner devoid of all principle; but what accords with the purpose is discovered by a comparison of the purpose with the circumstances of the instant. Such comparison does not allow, so far as its result is concerned, of any arbitrariness whatever; and for the very reason that it takes place through the instrumentality of thought, it is positively in no less degree than other events dependent on the subordination, under general laws, of the contents compared (viz., the final purpose and the form of the circumstances).

§ 73. All that is above-mentioned, however, would simply comprehend how, within the Being itself, a definite purpose-full impulse can be awakened; but not as yet how this impulse can actualize what it intends.

If now the impulse were to be directed only to a succession of inner states in the Being itself, then it might appear possible that a definite amount of force for the forming of other states of the same Being were communicated to it, in so far as the impulse itself is one state of this Being.

If, however, an effect from the impulse is to be shown in the elaboration according to a plan of other real elements that are originally foreign to the subject of the impulse (and this is the case, for example, in all organic architectonic impulses such as assimilate foreign material); then it is obvious that the intensity of the impulse within the one Being leads to nothing unless it meet with a like obedience to its commands in other beings. Now, since these other beings by no means experience of themselves the ‘impulse’ to actualize the final purpose of the aforesaid first Being; and since, rather every being would naturally have its own special impulse: therefore, a Being A cannot make other elements, b, c, d, of service to its special impulse, except so far as it can bring some compulsion to bear upon them;—that is to say so far as A can exert forces that can be exerted in a definite measure by and upon every other being as well, according to a law common to all the elements. For every element b, c, or d, wants to be under the necessity of performing one of its own actions in pursuance of the same right as that to which it is itself subjected; and not in pursuance of the particular preference of some other element.

The end of the above consideration is this: The conception of an ‘impulse’ adjusting the elements in accordance with a plan is undoubtedly permissible; but an impulse never effectuates anything unless that which it wants is, in itself, already the inevitably necessary result of the conditions present at the instant.

§ 74. ‘Impulse,’ accordingly, is not usually ascribed to one simple element, but to a combined multiplicity of such elements. And, indeed, it is assumed to be attached to no single one of them except in a partial way, so that it were the collective sum of the partial impulses of these elements; it rather appertains to the totality of such a system,—a totality which, in this case, is thought of as in opposition to all the parts of which it consists. According to Aristotle, the Whole is previous to the parts, and produces,—not, of course, the real substratum of which they consist, but that specific form in them by means of which they are parts of this whole. To express the same thing in more modern fashion; the Idea of the whole is previous to the reality in which it is actualized, and rules it in accordance with its own final purpose.

It is scarcely worth the trouble to repeat that these expressions designate an actual process, but do not explain it. Of course the whole, or the idea of the whole, can be distinguished in thought from its corporal actualization; but it must then also be demonstrated, how and where in ‘Being’ this abstraction of the whole can exist as an efficient power and can give conditions to reality.

Experience shows—what can be known a priori—that an organic whole is never actualized unless it exist in the shape of a smaller and already extant system of elements, from whose combination and reciprocal action with external nature the subsequent whole must proceed after the manner of a mechanism. In this way alone does the whole exist as potentia;—that is to say, in a case like this, not as power, but as bare ‘possibility.’

Just so, we can gain no insight into the manner in which an ‘Idea,’ that is in all cases originally nothing but the thought of a thinker, can become ‘in Being’ an efficient power; unless it, too, be first realized as a system of relations and reciprocal actions between different elements. This realization must be of such a nature that the development which we deduce from the ‘Idea,’ is, in fact, in this case too, produced a tergo by causes acting according to law; and the development coincides with the Idea, only because its demands were likewise predestined as inevitable consequences in that reciprocal position of the elements which was given from the first.

§ 75. According to all above-said, our entire view of nature would issue in thorough-going Determinism: all that happens would be the inevitable and blindly necessitated result of all that has previously happened; and the entire history of the world would be restricted to the successive unfolding of a series of states, all of which lay already contained in the primitive state of the world as a future made necessary thereby.

The bare consideration of nature and of its economic coherency would furnish absolutely no inducement to alter this view; metaphysical cosmology, therefore, concludes with it just as properly as the view itself everywhere underlies natural science considered as barely setting forth the facts.

If, nevertheless, our entire spirit is not satisfied with this view, the cause of the repugnance lies in the fact that, although in itself possible and free from contradictions, the view still appears incredible and preposterous when estimated in accordance with its significance and its value. Our mind wants that not all in the world be ‘mechanism,’ but that some One be ‘freedom’ as well; that not all be shaped by external conditions, but that some One at least shape its own being and its own future for itself.

Even in these demands of the mind there can lie concealed a certain portion of an inborn truth. In how far this is the case, and in what manner legitimate inference from our previous views permits of satisfying these demands, is left over for the last Division of our work.