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On turning to the spiritualist current of thought we find it, like the neo-criticism, no less keen in its criticism of science. The inadequacy of the purely scientific attitude is the recurring theme from Ravaisson to Boutroux, Bergson and Le Roy. The attitude assumed by Ravaisson coloured the whole of the subsequent development of the new spiritualist doctrines, and not least their bearing upon the problem of science and its relation to metaphysics.
Mechanism, Ravaisson pointed out, quoting the classical author upon whom he had himself written so brilliantly (Aristotle), does not explain itself, for it implies a "prime mover," not itself in motion, but which produces movement by spiritual activity. Ravaisson also refers to the testimony of Leibnitz, who, while agreeing that all is mechanical, carefully added to this statement one to the effect that mechanism itself has a principle which must be looked for outside matter and which is the object of metaphysical research. This spiritual reality is found only, according to Ravaisson, in the power of goodness and beauty—that is to say, in a reality which is not non-scientific but rather ultra-scientific. There are realities, he claims, to which science does not attain.
The explanation of nature presupposes soul or spirit. It is true, Ravaisson admits, that the physical and chemical sciences consider themselves independent of metaphysics; true also that the metaphysician in ignoring the study of those sciences omits much from his estimate of the spirit. Indeed, he cannot well dispense with the results of the sciences. That admission, however, does not do away with the possibility of a true "apologia" for metaphysics. To Newton's sarcastic remark, "Physics beware of metaphysics," Hegel replied cogently that this was equivalent to saying, "Physics, keep away from thought." Spirit, however, cannot be omitted from the account; it is the condition of all that is, the light by which we see that there is such a thing as a material universe. This is the central point of Ravaisson's philosophy. The sciences of nature may be allowed and encouraged to work diligently upon their own principles, but the very fact that they are individual sciences compels them to admit that they view the whole "piecemeal". Philosophy seeks to interpret the whole as a whole. Ravaisson quotes Pascal's saying, "Il faut avoir une pensée de derrière la tête et juger de tout par là." This pensée de derrière la tête, says Ravaisson, while not preventing the various sciences from speaking in their own tongue, is just the metaphysical or philosophical idea of the whole.
It is claimed, Aristotle used to say, that mathematics have absolutely nothing in common with the idea of the good. "But order, proportion, symmetry, are not these great forms of beauty?" asks Ravaisson. For him there is spirit at the heart of things, an activity, un feu primitif qui est l'âme, which expresses itself in thought, in will and in love. It is a fire which does not burn itself out, because it is enduring spirit, an eternal cause, the absolute substance is this spiritual reality. Where the sciences fall short is that they fail to show that nature is but the refraction of this spirit. This is a fact, however, which both religion and philosophy grasp and uphold.
These criticisms were disturbing for those minds who found entire satisfaction in Science or rather in the sciences, but they were somewhat general. Ravaisson's work inculcated a spirit rather than sustained a dialectic. Its chief value lay in the inspiration which it imparted to subsequent thinkers who endeavoured to work out his general ideas with greater precision.
It was this task which Lachelier set himself in his Induction. He had keenly felt the menace of science, as had Janet;* he had appreciated the challenge offered to it by Ravaisson's ideas. Moreover, Lachelier's acute mind discovered the crucial points upon which the new spiritualism could base its attack upon the purely scientific dogmatism. Whatever Leibnitz might have said, creative spontaneity of the spirit, as it was acclaimed by Ravaisson, could not easily be fitted into the mechanism and determinism upheld by the sciences. Ravaisson had admitted the action of efficient causes in so far as he admitted the action of mechanism, which is but the outcome of these causes. In this way he endeavoured to satisfy the essential demands of the scientific attitude to the universe. But recognising the inadequacy of this attitude he had upheld the reality of final causes and thus opposed to the scientists a metaphysical doctrine akin to the religious attitude of Hellenism and Christianity.
[Footnote * : We refer here to the quotation from Janet's Problèmes du XIXe Siècle, given above on p. 95. Janet himself wrote on Final Causes but not Wlth the depth or penetration of Lachelier.]
Lachelier saw that the important point of Ravaisson's doctrine lay in the problem of these two types of causality. His thesis is therefore devoted to the examination of efficient and final causes. This little work of Lachelier marks a highly important advance in the development of the spiritualist philosophy. He clarifies and re-affirms more precisely the position indicated by Ravaisson. Lacheher tears up the treaty of compromise which was drafted by Leibnitz to meet the rival demands of science with its efficient causes and philosophy with its final causes. The world of free creative spontaneity of the spirit cannot be regarded, Lachelier claims (and this is his vital point), as merely the complement of, or the reflex from, the world of mechanism and determinism.
He works out in his thesis the doctrine that efficient causes can be deduced from the formal laws of thought. This was Taine's position, and it was the limit of Taine's doctrine. Lachelier goes further and undermines Taine's theories by upholding final causes, which he shows depend upon the conception of a totality, a whole which is capable of creating its parts. This view of the whole is a philosophical conception to which the natural sciences never rise, and which they cannot, by the very nature of their data and their methods, comprehend. Yet it is only such a conception which can supply any rational basis for the unity of phenomena and of experience. Only by seeing the variety of all phenomena in the light of such an organic unity can we find any meaning in the term universe, and only thus, continues Lachelier, only on the principle of a rational and universal order and on the reality of final causes, can we base our inductions. The "uniformity of nature," that fetish of the scientists which, as Lachelier well points out, is merely the empirical regularity of phenomena, offers no adequate basis for a single induction.
Lachelier developed his doctrines further in the article, Psychologie et Métaphysique. We can observe in it the marks which so profoundly distinguish the new spiritualism from the old, as once taught by Cousin. The old spiritualism had no place between its psychology and its metaphysics for the natural sciences. Indeed it was quite incapable of dealing with the problem which their existence and success presented, and so it chose to ignore them as far as possible. The new spiritualism, of which Lachelier is perhaps the profoundest speculative mind, not only is acquainted with the place and results of the sciences, but it feels itself equal to a criticism of them, an advance which marks a highly important development in philosophy.
In this article Lachelier endeavours to pass beyond the standpoint of Cousin, and in so doing we see not only the influence of Ravaisson's ideas of the creative activity of the spirit, but also of the discipline of the Kantian criticism, with which Lachelier, unlike many of his contemporaries in France at that time, was well acquainted.
He first shows that the study of psychology reveals to us the human powers of sensation, feeling and will. These are the immediate data of consciousness. Another element, however, enters into consciousness, not as these three, a definite content, but as a colouring of the whole. This other element is "objectivity," an awareness or belief that the world without exists and continues to exist independently of our observation of it. Lachelier combats, however, the Kantian conception of the "thing-in-itself." If, he argues, the world around us appears as a reality which is independent of our perception, it is not because it is a "thing-in-itself," but rather it appears as independent because we, possessing conscious intelligence, succeed in making it an object of our thought, and thus save it from the mere subjectivity which characterises our sense-experience. It is upon this fact, Lachelier rightly insists, that all our science reposes. A theory of knowledge as proposed by Taine, based solely on sensation and professing belief in hallucination vraie, is itself a contradiction and an abuse of language. "If thought is an illusion," remarks Lachelier, "we must suppress all the sciences."*
[Footnote * : Psychologie et Métaphisique, p.151.(See especially the passages on pp.150-158.)]
He then proceeds to show that if we admit thought to be the basis of our knowledge of the world, that is, of our sciences, then we admit that our sciences are themselves connstructions, based upon a synthetic, constructive, creative activity of our mind or spirit. For our thought is not merely another "thing" added to the world of things outside us. Our thought is not a given and predetermined datum, it is "a living dialectic," a creative activity, a self-creative process, which is synthetic, and not merely analytic in character. "Thought," he says, "can rest upon itself, while everything else can only rest upon it; the ultimate point d'appui of all truth and of all existence is to be found in the absolute spontaneity of the spirit."* Here, Lachelier maintains, lies the real a priori; here, too, is the very important passage from psychology to metaphysics.
[Footnote *: Psychologie et Métaphysique, p. 158.]
Finally his treatment of the problems of knowledge and of the foundations of science leads him to reemphasise not only the reality of spirit but its spontaneity. He recognises with Cournot and Renouvier that the vital problem for science and philosophy is that of freedom. The nature of existence is for Lachelier a manifestation of spirit, and is seen in will, in necessity and in freedom. It is important to note that for him it is all these simultaneously. "Being," he remarks in concluding his brilliant essay,† "is not first, a blind necessity, then a will which must be for ever bound down in advance to necessity and, lastly, a freedom which would merely be able to recognise such necessity and such a bound will; being is entirely free, in so far as it is self-creative; it is entirely an expression of will, in so far as it creates itself in the form of something concrete and real; it is also entirely an expression of necessity, in so far as its self-creation is intelligible and gives an account of itself."
[Footnote †: Ibid., p. 170]
At this stage something in the nature of a temporary "set-back" is given to the flow of the spiritualist current by Fouillee's attitude, which takes a different line from that of Ravaisson and Lachelier. The attitude towards Science, which we find adopted by Fouillee, is determined by his two general principles, that of reconcilation, and his own doctrine of idées-forces. His conciliatory spirit is well seen in the fact that, although he has a great respect for science and inherits many of the qualities contained in Taine's philosophy, particularly the effort to maintain a regular continuity and solidarity in the development of reality, nevertheless he is imbued with the spirit of idealism which characterises all this group of thinkers. The result is a mixture of Platonism and naturalism, and to this he himself confesses in his work, Le Mouvement idéaliste et la Réaction contre la Science positive, where he expresses a desire "to bring back Plato's ideas from heaven to earth, and so to make idealism consonant with naturalism."*
[Footnote * : Le Mouvement idéaliste el la Réaction contre la Science positive, p. xxi.]
Fouillée claims to take up a position midway between the materialists and the idealists. Neither standpoint is, in his view, adequate to describe reality. He is particularly opposed to the materialistic and mechanistic thought of the English Evolutionary School, as presented by Spencer and Huxley, with its pretensions to be scientific. Fouillee accepts, with them, the notion of evolution, but he disagrees entirely with Spencer's attempt to refer everything to mechanism, the mechanism of matter in motion. In any case, Fouillée claims, movement is a very slender and one-sided element of experience upon which to base our characterisation of all reality, for the idea of motion arises only from our visual and tactual experience. He revolts from the epiphenomenalism of Huxley as from a dire heresy. Consciousness cannot be regarded as a mere "flash in the pan." Even science must admit that all phenomena are to be defined by their relation to, and action upon, other phenomena. Consciousness, so regarded, will be seen, he claims, as a unique power, possessing the property of acting upon matter and of initiating movement. It is itself a factor, and a very vital one, in the evolutionary process. It is no mere reflex or passive representation. On this point of the irreducibility of the mental life and the validity of its action, Fouillée parts company with Taine. On the other hand, he disagrees with the idealistic school of thought, which upholds a pure intellectualism and for whom thought is the accepted characterisation of reality. This, complains Fouillée, is as much an abstraction and a one-sided view as that of Spencer.
In this manner Fouillée endeavours to "rectify the scientific conception of evolution" by his doctrine of idées-forces. "There is," he says,* "in every idea a commencement of action, and even of movement, which tends to persist and to increase like an élan. . . . Every idea is already a force." Psychologically it is seen in the active, conative or appetitive aspect of consciousness. To think of a thing involves already, in some measure, a tendency toward it, to desire it. Physiologically considered, idées-forces are found to operate, not mechanically, but by a vital solidarity which is much more than mere mechanism, and which unites the inner consciousness to the outer physical fact of movement. From a general philosophical point of view the doctrine of idées-forces establishes the irreducibility of the mental, and the fact that, so far from the mental being a kind of phosphorescence produced as a result of the evolutionary process, it is a prime factor in that evolution, of which mechanism is only a symbol. Here Fouillée rises almost to the spiritualism of Ravaisson. Mechanism, he declares, is, after all, but a manner of representing to ourselves things in space and time. Scientists speak of forces, but the real forces are ideas, and other so-called "forces" are merely analogies which we have constructed, based upon the inner mental feeling of effort, tendency, desire and will.†
[Footnote * : La Liberté et le Déterminisme, p. 97, 4e ed.]
[Footnote † : This was a point upon which Maine de Biran had insisted. (See p. 20.)]
The scientists have too often, as Fouillée well points in his work on L'Evolutionnisme des Idées-forces, regarded the concept of Evolution as all-sufficing, as self-explanatory. Philosophy, however, cannot accept such dogmatism from science, and asserts that evolution is itself a result and not in itself a cause. With such a view Fouillée is found ultimately in the line of the general development of the spiritual philosophy continuing the hostility to science as ultimate or all-sufficing. Further developments of this attitude are seen in Boutroux and in Bergson.
In the work of Boutroux we find a continuation of that type of criticism of science which was a feature in Ravaisson and Lachelier. He has also affinities with Renouvier (and, we may add, with Comte), because of his insistence upon the discontinuity of the sciences; upon the element of "newness" found in each which prevents the higher being deduced from the lower, or the superior explained by reference to the inferior. Boutroux opposes Spencer's doctrines and is a keen antagonist of Taine and his claim to deduce all from one formula. Such a notion as that of Taine is quite absurd, according to Boutroux, for there is no necessary bond between one and another science. This is Boutroux's main point in La Contingence des Lois de la Nature.
By a survey of laws of various types, logical, mathematical, mechanical, physical, chemical, biological, psychological and sociological, Boutroux endeavours to show that they are constructions built up from facts. Just as nature offers to the scientist facts for data, so the sciences themselves offer these natural laws as data to the philosopher, for his constructed explanation of things which is metaphysics or philosophy.
"In the actual condition of our knowledge," he remarks, "science is not one, but multiple; science, conceived as embracing all the sciences, is a mere abstraction." This is a remark which recalls Renouvier's witty saying, "I should very much like to meet this person I hear so much about, called 'science.'" We have only sciences, each working after its own manner upon a small portion of reality. Man has a thirst for knowledge, and he sees, says Boutroux, in the world an "ensemble" of facts of infinite variety. These facts man endeavours to observe, analyse, and describe with increasing exactness. Science, he points out, is just this description.
It is futile to attempt a resolution of all things into the principle of identity. "The world is full of a number of things," and, therefore, argues Boutroux, the formula A = B can never be strictly and absolutely true. "Nature never offers to us identities, but only resemblances." This has important bearing upon the law of causality, of which the sciences make so much. For there is such a degree of heterogeneity in the things to which the most elementary and general laws of physics and chemistry are applied that it is impossible to say that the consequent is proportional to the antecedent—that is to say, it is impossible to work out absolutely the statement that an effect is the unique result of a certain invariable cause. The fundamental link escapes us and so, for us, there is a certain contingency in experience. There is, further, a creativeness, a newness, which is unforeseeable. The passage from the inorganic to the organic stresses this, for the observation of the former would never lead us to the other, for it is a creation, a veritable "new" thing. Boutroux is here dealing hard blows at Taine's conception. He continues it by showing that in the conscious living being we are introduced to a new element which is again absolutely irreducible to physical factors. Life, and consciousness too, are both creators. The life of the mind is absolutely sui generis; it cannot be explained by physiology, by reflex action, or looked upon as merely an epiphenomenon. Already Boutroux finds himself facing the central problem of Freedom. He recognises that as psychological phenomena appear to contain qualities not given in their immediate antecedents, the law of proportion of cause to effect does not apply to the actions of the human mind.
The principle of causality and the principle of the conservation of energy are m themselves scientific "shibboleths," and neither of them, asserts Boutroux, can be worked out so absolutely as to justify themselves as ultimate descriptions of the universe. They are valuable as practical maxims for the scientist, whose object is to follow the threads of action in this varied world of ours. They are incomplete, and have merely a relative value. Philosophy cannot permit their application to the totality of this living, pulsing universe. For cause, we must remember, does not in its strictly scientific meaning imply creative power. The cause of a phenomenon is itself a phenomenon. "The positive sciences in vain pretend to seize the divine essence or reason behind things."* They arrive at descriptive formulæ and there they leave us. But, as Boutroux well reminds us in concluding his thesis, formulas never explain anything because they cannot even explain themselves. They are simply constructions made by observation and abstraction and which themselves require explanation.
[Footnote * : Contingence des Lois de la Nature, p 154.]
The laws of nature are not restrictions which have been, as it were, imposed upon her They are themselves products of freedom; they are, in her, what habits are to the individual. Their constancy is like the stability of a river-bed which the freely running stream at some early time hollowed out.
The world is an assembly of beings, and its vitality and nature cannot be expressed in a formula. It comprises a hierarchy of creatures, rising from inorganic to organic forms, from matter to spirit, and in man it displays an observing intelligence, rising above mere sensibility and expressly modifying things by free will. In this conception Boutroux follows Ravaisson, and he is also influenced by that thinker's belief in a spiritual Power of goodness and beauty. He thus leads us to the sphere of religion and philosophy, both of which endeavour, in their own manner, to complete the inadequacy of the purely scientific standpoint. He thus stands linked up in the total development with Cournot and Renouvier, and in his own group with Lachelier, in regard to this question of the relation of philosophy and the sciences.
The critique of science, which is so prominent in Boutroux, was characteristic of a number of thinkers whom we cannot do more than mention here in passing, for in general their work is not in line with the spiritualist development, but is a sub-current running out and separated from the main stream. This is shown prominently in the fact that, while Boutroux's critique is in the interests of idealism and the maintenance of some spiritual values, much subsequent criticism of science is a mere empiricism and, being divorced from the general principles of the spiritualist philosophy, tends merely to accentuate a vein of uncertainty—indeed, scepticism of knowledge. Such is the general standpoint taken by Milhaud, Payot, and Duhem. Rather apart from these stands the works of acute minds like Poincaré, Durand de Gros, and Hannequin, whose discussion of the atomic doctrines is a work of considerable merit. To these may be added Lalande's criticism of the doctrine of evolution and integration by his opposing to it that of dissolution and disintegration. Passing references to these books must not, however, detain us from following the main development which, from Boutroux, is carried on by Bergson.
We find that Bergson, like Boutroux, holds no brief for science, and in particular he opposes some of its doctrines which have been dogmatically and uncritically accepted. His work, Matiére et Mémoire, is a direct critique of the scientific postulate of psycho-physical parallelism which Bergson regards as the crux of the problem at issue between science and philosophy— namely, that of freedom. He shows that this theory, which has been adopted by science because of its convenience, ought not to be accepted by philosophy without criticism. In his opinion it cannot stand the criticism which he brings against it. A relation between soul and body is undeniable, but he does not agree that that relation is one of absolute parallelism. To maintain parallelism is to settle at once and beforehand, in an unwarrantably a priori manner, the whole problem of freedom. His intense spiritualism sees also in such a doctrine the deadly enemy Epiphenomenalism, the belief that the spiritual is only a product of the physical. He maintains the unique and irreducible nature of consciousness, and claims that the life of the soul or spirit is richer and wider than the mere physical activity of the brain, which is really its instrument. Bergson asks us to imagine the revolution which might have been, had our early scientists devoted themselves to the study of mind rather than matter, and claims that we suffer from the dogmatism of materialistic science and the geometrical and mathematical conceptions of "a universal science" or "mathematic" which come from the seventeenth century, and are seen later in Taine.
The inadequacy of the scientific standpoint is a theme upon which Bergson never tires of insisting. Not only does he regard a metaphysic as necessary to complete this inadequacy, but he claims that our intellect is incapable of grasping reality in its flux and change. The true instrument of metaphysics is, according to him, intuition. Bergson's doctrine of intuition does not, however, amount to a pure hostility to intellectual constructions. These are valuable, but they are not adequate to reality. Metaphysics cannot dispense with the natural sciences. These sciences work with concepts, abstractions, and so suffer by being intellectual moulds. We must not mistake them for the living, pulsing, throbbing reality of life itself which is far wider than any intellectual construction.
By his insistence upon this point, in which he joins hands with several of his predecessors, Bergson claims to have got over the Kantian difficulties of admitting the value and possibility of a metaphysic. There is nothing irrational, he insists, in his doctrine of metaphysical intuition or "intellectual sympathy"; it is rather super-rational, akin to the spirit of the poet and the artist. The various sciences can supply data and, as such, are to be respected, for they have a relative value. What Bergson is eager to do is to combat their absolute value. His metaphysic is, however, no mere "philosophy of the sciences" in the sense of being a mere summary of the results of the sciences. His intuition is more than a mere generalisation of facts; it is an "integral experience," a penetration of reality in its flux and change, a looking upon the world sub specie durationis. It is a vision, but it is one which we cannot obtain without intellectual or scientific labour. We can become better acquainted with reality only by the progressive development of science and philosophy. We cannot live on the dry bread of the sciences alone, an intuitional philosophy is necessary for our spiritual welfare. Science promises us well-being or pleasure, but philosophy, claims Bergson, can give us joy, by its intuitions, its super-intellectual vision, that vital contact with life itself in its fulness, which is far grander and truer than all the abstractions of science. This is the culmination of much already indicated in Cournot, Renouvier, Ravaisson, Lachelier, and Boutroux, which Bergson presents in a manner quite unique, thus closing in our period the development of that criticism and hostility to the finality and absoluteness of the purely scientific attitude which is so marked a feature of both our second and third groups, the neo-critical thinkers and the neo-spiritualists.
* * * * *
Beginning with a glowing confidence in the sciences as ultimate interpretations of reality, we thus have witnessed a complete turn of the tide during the develop-* since 1851. Also, in following out the changes in the attitude adopted to Science, we have been enabled to discover in a general manner that the central and vital problem which our period presents is that of Freedom. It will be interesting to find whether in regard to this problem, too, a similar change of front will be noticeable as the period is followed to its close.
NOTE.—The reader may be interested to find that Einstein has brought out some of Boutroux's points very emphatically, and has confirmed the view of geometry held by Poincaré. Compare the following statements:
Boutroux: "Mathematics cannot be applied with exactness to reality." "Mathematics and experience can never be exactly fitted into each other."
Poincaré: "Formulæ are not true, they are convenient."
Einstein: "If we deny the relation between the body of axiomatic Euclidean geometry or the practically rigid body of reality, we readily arrive at the view entertained by that acute and profound thinker, H. Poincaré . . . Sub specie æterni, Poincaré, in my opinion, is right" (Sidelights on Relativity, pp. 33-35).
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