Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 49.djvu/284

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are equally vain and premature; and they will also perceive that science gives no better warrant for the "religion" to which Romanes has been led than it gives for the "atheism" which he has outgrown. We hope his fascinating book will find many readers, for it will give them the pleasure which is found in all strong and vivid works of the imagination; although we refrain from detailed discussion of its ingenious arguments, for the reason that we are sure no thoughtful student can mistake it for a contribution to knowledge.

If certain enthusiastic students of Nature have been carried away into materialism by the triumphs which modern science has achieved through the use of the symbolism of matter and motion, they can not complain that there has been any lack of warning. The most profound and cautious thinkers of our century have never ceased to insist that our conceptions of matter and motion are nothing more than symbols; and that, so far as knowledge of any reality behind them is concerned, they might as well be called x and y. General recognition of this truth is now producing a reaction which seems, to these zealous believers, to di'ive them out of their materialism into some other system of philosophy; but before they rush from one extreme to another, they should ask themselves whether this revolution will bring them any nearer to the solid rock of certainty than they were before. No one who is familiar with the work of our greatest intellectual leaders can find anything novel in Romanes's declaration that "when we speak of matter in motion we do not at all know what it is that moves, nor do we know at all what it is that we mean by motion"; although we must ask the followers of Romanes whether we know anything more about the essence of mind than we know about the essence of matter, and whether we can say anything more of our mental changes than that "they appear together, but we do not know why."

Prof. Ostwald tells us in his address on "The Failure of Scientific Materialism"[1] that "every scientific thinker, from the mathematician to the practicing physician, would sum up his view, in answer to the question how he supposes the world is intrinsically constituted, by saying that the universe is composed of atoms in motion, and that the atoms and the forces acting between them are the ultimate realities of which individual phenomena consist." Whatever the German frame of mind may be, we are disposed to believe that many Englishmen and Americans, if asked "What are the ultimate realities of which individual phenomena consist?" would answer that they do not know. We believe there would be no difficulty in finding many eminent men of science who have refused to have anything more to do with materialism than to make use of its symbols, so far as they have proved useful. So long ago as 1868, Huxley tells us[2] that he shares with some of the most thoughtful men with whom he is acquainted the union of materialistic terminology with the repudiation of materialistic philosophy; that he individually is no materialist, but, on the contrary, believes materialism to involve grave philosophical error. Ostwald seems to have come, somewhat late in the day, to the point of view from which Huxley's most thoughtful acquaintances contemplated materialism in 1868; but, unlike Huxley, he proposes a substitute, and seeks to show that

  1. See translation in Popular Science Monthly for March, 1896.
  2. Collected Essays, I, iii, 155.