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The development of the treatment of this problem within the thought of the new spiritualists or idealists is extremely interesting, and it proceeded finally to a definite doctrine of contingency as the century drew to its close. The considerations set forth are usually psychological in tone, and not so largely ethical as in the neo-critical philosophy.
Ravaisson declared himself a champion of freedom. He accepted the principle of Leibnitz, to the effect that everything has a reason, from which it follows that everything is necessitated, without which there could be no certitude and no science. But, says Ravaisson, there are two kinds of necessity—one absolute, one relative. The former is logical, the type of the principle of identity, and is found in syllogisms and in mathematics, which is just logic applied to quantity. The other type of necessity is moral, and is, unlike the former, perfectly in accord with freedom. It indeed implies freedom, the freedom of self-determination. The truly wise man can- not help doing what is right and good. The slave of Passion and caprice and evil has no freedom. The wise man selecting the good chooses it infallibly, but at the time with perfect free-will. "It is perhaps because the good or the beautiful is simply nothing other than love—that is, the power of will in all its purity, and so to will what is truly good is to will oneself (c'est se vouloir soi-même)."*
[Footnote * : La Philosophie en France, p. 268.]
Nature is not, as the materialists endeavour to maintain, entirely geometrical—that is to say, fatalistic in character. Morality enters into the scheme of things and, with it, ends freely striven for. There is present a freedom which is a kind of necessity, yet opposed to fatalism. This freedom involves a determination by conceptions of perfection, ideals of beauty and of good. "Fatality is but an appearance; spontaneity and freedom constitute reality."† So far, continues Ravaisson, from all things operating by brute mechanism or by pure hazard, things operate by the development of a tendency to perfection, to goodness and beauty. Instead of everything submitting to a blind destiny, everything obeys, and obeys willingly, a divine Providence.
[Footnote † : Ibid., p. 270]
Ravaisson's fundamental spiritualism is clear in all this, and it serves as the starting-point for the thinkers who follow him. Spiritualism is bound up with spontaneity, creation, freedom, and this is his central point, this insistence on freedom. While resisting mechanical determination he endeavours to retain a determination of another kind—namely, by ends, a teleology or finalism. This is extremely interesting when observed in relation to the subsequent development in Lachelier, Boutroux, Blondel and Bergson.
Lachelier's treatment of freedom is an important landmark in the spiritualist development. By his concentrated analysis of the problem of induction he brought out the significance of efficient and final causes respectively. He appears as the pupil of Ravaisson, whose initial inspiration is apparent in his whole work, especially in his treatment of freedom. He dwells upon the fact of the spontaneity of the spirit—a point of view which Ravaisson succeeded in imparting to the three thinkers, Lachelier, Boutroux and Bergson. Besides the influence of Ravaisson, however, that of Kant and Leibnitz appears in Lachelier's attitude to freedom. Yet he passes beyond the Kantian position, and he rejects the double-aspect doctrine which Leibnitz maintained with regard to efficient and final causes. Lachelier insists that the spontaneity of spirit stands above and underlies the whole of nature. This is the point which Boutroux, under Lachelier's influence, took up in his Contingence des Lois de la Nature. Lachelier, in attacking the purely mechanistic conception of the universe, endeavoured, as he himself put it, "to substitute everywhere force for inertia, life for death and freedom for fatalism." Rather than universal necessity it is universal contingence which is the real definition of existence. We are free to determine ourselves in accordance with ends we set before us, and to act in the manner necessary to accomplish those ends. Our life itself, as he shows in the conclusion of his brilliant little article Psychologie et Métaphysique, is creative, and we must beware of arguing that what we have been makes us what we are, for that character which we look upon as determining us need not do so if we free ourselves from habit, and, further, this character is, in any case, itself the result of our free actions over extended time, the free creation of our own personality.
While with Ravaisson and Lachelier the concept of freedom was being rather fully developed in opposition to the determinist doctrines, Fouillée, in his brilliant and acute thesis on Liberté et Déterminisme, endeavoured to call a halt to this supremacy of Freedom, and to be true to the principles of reconciliation which he laid down for himself in his philosophy. He confesses himself, at the outset, to be a pacifist rather than a belligerent in this classic dispute between determinists on the one hand and partisans of freedom on the other. He believes that, on intimate investigation pursued sufficiently far, the two opposing doctrines will be seen to converge. Such a declaration would seem to be dangerously superficial in a warfare as bitter and as sharp as this. It must be admitted that, as is the case with many who profess to conciliate two conflicting views, Fouillée leaves us at times without precise and definite indication of his own position.
In contrast to the attitude of Ravaisson and Lachelier Fouillée inclines in some respects to the attitude of Taine and many passages of his book show him to be holding at least a temporary brief for the partisans of determinism. He agrees notably with Taine in his objecting to the contention that under the determinist theory moral values lose their significance. Fouillée claims that it is both incorrect and unfair to argue that "under the necessity-hypothesis a thing being all that it can be is thereby all that it should be."*.
[Footnote * : La Liberté et le Déterminisme, p. 51 (fourth edition)]
He goes on to point out that the consciousness of independence, which is an essential of freedom, may be nothing more than a lack of consciousness of our dependence. Motives he is inclined to speak of as determining the will itself, while he looks upon the "liberty of indifference" or of hazard as merely a concession to the operations of mechanical necessity. The "liberty of indifference" is often the mere play of instinct and of fatality, while hazard, so far from being an argument in the hands of the upholders of freedom, is really a determination made previously by something other than one's own will.
This is a direct attack upon the doctrines put forward by both Cournot and Renouvier. Fouillée is well aware of this, and twenty pages of his thesis are devoted to a critical and hostile examination of the statements of both Renouvier and his friend Lequier.† Fouillée claims that these two thinkers have only disguised and misplaced the "liberty of indifference"; they have not, he thinks, really suppressed it, although both of them profess to reject it absolutely. A keen discussion between Fouillée and Renouvier arose from this and continued for some time, being marked on both sides by powerful dialectic. Renouvier used his paper the Critique philosophique as his medium, while Fouillée continued in subsequent editions of his thesis, in his Idée moderne du Droit and also in his acute study Critique des Systèmes de Morale contemporains. Fouillée took Renouvier to task particularly for his maintaining that if all be determined then truth and error are indistinguishable. Fouillée claims that the distinction between truth and error is by no means parallel to that between necessity and freedom. An error may, he points out, be necessitated, and consequently we must look elsewhere for our doctrine of certitude than to the affirmation of freedom. In the philosophy of Renouvier, as we have seen, these two are intimately connected. Fouillée criticises the neo-critical doctrine of freedom on the ground that Renouvier mars his thought by a tendency to look upon the determinist as a passive and inert creature. This, he says, is "the argument of laziness" applied to the intelligence. "One forgets," says Fouillée, "that if intelligence is a mirror, it is not an immovable and powerless mirror: it is a mirror always turning itself to reality."*
[Footnote † : Ibid., pp. 117-137.]
[Footnote * : La Liberté et le Déterminisme, p. 129.]
On examining closely the difference between Renouvier and Fouillée over this problem of freedom, we may attribute it to the fact that while the one thinker is distinctly and rigorously an upholder of continuity, the other believes in no such absolute continuity. For Fouillée there is, in a sense, nothing new under the sun, while Renouvier in his thought, which has been well described as a philosophy of discontinuity, has a place for new things, real beginnings, and he is in this way linked up to the doctrine of creative development as set forth ultimately by Bergson. It will be seen also as we proceed that Fouillée, for all he has to say on behalf of determinism, is not so widely separated in his view of freedom from that worked out by Bergson, although at the first glance the gulf between them seems a wide one.
Fouillée, while attacking Renouvier, did not spare that other acute thinker, Lachelier, from the whip of his criticism. He takes objection to a passage in that writer's Induction where he advocates the doctrine that the production of ideas "is free in the most rigorous sense of that word, since each idea is in itself absolutely independent of that which precedes it, and is born out of nothing, as is a world." To this view of the spontaneity of the spirit Fouillée opposes the remark that Lachelier is considering only the new forms which are assumed by a mechanism which is always operating under the same laws of causality. He asks us in this connection to imagine a kaleidoscope which is being turned round. The images which succeed each other will be in this sense a formal creation, a form independent of that which went before, but, as he is anxious to remind us, the same mechanical and geometrical laws will be operating continually in producing these forms.
Having had these encounters with the upholders of freedom, and thus to some degree having conveyed the impression of being on the side of the determinists, Fouillée proceeds to the task he had set himself—namely, that of reconciliation. He felt the unsatisfactoriness of Kant's treatment of freedom,* and he endeavours to remedy the lack in Kant of a real link between the determinism of the natural sciences and the human consciousness of freedom, realised in the practical reason. Fouillée proposes to find in his idées-forces a middle term and to offer us a solution of the problem at issue in the dispute.
[Footnote: See above, p. 136. i]
He begins by showing that there has been an unfortunate neglect of one important factor in the case—a factor whose reality is frankly admitted by both parties. This central, incontestable fact is the idea of freedom. This idea, according to Fouillée, arises in us as the result Of a combination of various psychological factors, such as notions of diversity, possibility, with the tendency to action arising from the notion of action, which thus shows itself as a force. The combination of these results in the genesis of the idea of freedom. Now the stronger this idea of freedom is in our minds the more we make it become a reality. It is an "idea-force" which by being thought tends to action and thus increases in power and fruitfulness. The idea of freedom becomes, by a kind of determinism, more powerful in proportion to the degree with which it is acted upon. Determinism thus reflects upon itself and in a curious way turns to operate against itself. This directing power of the idea of freedom cannot be denied even by the most rigorous upholders of determinism. They at least are forced to find room in their doctrine for THE IDEA of freedom and its practical action on the lives of men, both individually and in societies. The vice of the doctrines of determinism has been the refusal to admit the reality of the liberating idea of freedom, which is tending always to realise itself.
The belief in freedom is, therefore, Fouillée claims, a powerful force in the world. Nothing is a more sure redeemer of men and societies from evil ways than the realisation of this idea of freedom. So largely is this the case that indeed the extinction of the BELIEF in freedom would, he argues, not differ much in consequence from the finding that freedom was an illusion, or, if it be a fact, its abolition.
Having thus rectified the doctrine of determinism by including a place within it for THE IDEA of freedom, Fouillée proceeds by careful analysis to show the error of belief in freedom understood as that of an indifferent will. This raises as many fallacious views as that of a determinism bereft of the idea of freedom. The capricious and indifferent liberty he rejects, and in so doing shows us the importance of the intelligent power of willing, and also reaffirms the determinists' thesis of inability to do certain things. The psychology of character shows us a determined freedom, and in the intelligent personality a reconciliation of freedom and determinism is seen to be effected. Fouillée shows that if it were not true that very largely what we have been makes us what we are, and that what we are determines our future actions, then education, moral guidance, laws and social sanctions would all be useless. Indifferentism in thought is the reversal of all thought.
Fouillée sees that the antithesis between Freedom and Necessity is not absolute, and he modifies the warmth of Renouvier's onslaughts upon the upholders of determinism. But he believes we can construct a notion of moral freedom which will not be incompatible with the determinism of nature. To effect this reconciliation, however, we must abandon the view of Freedom as a decision indifferently made, an action of sheer will unrelated to intelligence. Freedom is not caprice; it is, Fouillée claims, a power of indefinite development.
Yet, in the long and penetrating Introduction to his volume on the Evolutionnisme des Idées-forces, Fouillée points out that however much science may feel itself called upon to uphold a doctrine of determinism for its own specific purposes, we must remember that the sphere of science is not all-embracing. There is the sphere of action, and the practical life demands and, to a degree demonstrates, freedom. Fouillee admits in this connection the indetermination of the future, pour notre esprit. We act upon this idea of relative indeterminism, combining with it the idea of our own action, the part which we personally feel called upon to play. He recognises in his analysis how important is this point for the solution of the problem. We cannot overlook the contribution which our personality is capable of making to the whole unity of life and experience, not only by its achievements in action, but by its ideals, by that which we feel both can and should be. Herein lies, according to Fouillée's analysis, the secret of duty and the ideal of our power to fulfil it, based upon the central idea of our freedom. By thus acting on these ideas, and by the light and inspiration of these ideals, we tend to realise them. It is this which marks the point where a doctrine of pure determinism not only shows itself erroneous and inadequate, but as Fouillee puts it, the human consciousness is the point where it is obliged to turn against itself "as a serpent which bites its own tail."* Fatalism is a speculative hypothesis and nothing else. Freedom is equally an hypothesis, but, adds Fouillée, it is an hypothesis which is at work in the world.
[Footnote * : Evolutionnisme des Idées-forces, Introduction, p. lxxiv.]
In the thought of Guyau there is a further insistence upon freedom in spite of the fact that his spiritualism is super-added to much which reveals the naturalist and positive outlook. He upholds freedom and, indeed, contingency, urging, as against Ravaisson's teleology, that there is no definite tendency towards truth, beauty and goodness. At all times, too, Guyau is conscious of union with nature and with his fellows in a way which operates against a facile assertion of freedom. In his Vers d'un Philosophe he remarks:
"Ce mot si doux au coeur et si cher, Liberté,
J'en préfèrs encore un: c'est Solidarité."†
[Footnote † : Vers d'un Philosophe, "Solidarité," p. 38]
The maintenance of the doctrine of liberty, which in view of the facts we are bound to maintain, does away, Guyau insists, with the doctrine of Providence; for him, as for Bergson, there is no prévision but only nouveauté in the universe. Guyau indeed is not inclined to admit even that end which Bergson seems to favour—namely, "spontaneity of life itself." The world does not find its end in us, any more than we find our "ends" fixed for us in advance. Nothing is fixed, arranged or predetermined; there is not even a primitive adaptation of things to one another, for such adaptation would involve the pre-existence of ideas prior to the material world, together with a demiurge arranging things upon a plan in the manner of an architect. In reality there is no plan; every worker conceives his own. The world is a superb example, not of order, such as we associate with the idea of Providence in action, but the reverse, disorder, the result of contingency and freedom.
The supreme emphasis upon the reality of freedom appears, however, in the work of Boutroux and of Bergson at the end of our period. They arrive at a position diametrically opposed to that of the upholders of determinism, by their doctrines of contingency as revealed both in the evolution of the universe and in the realm of personal life. There is thus seen, as was the case with the problem of science, a complete "turn of the tide" in the development since Comte.
Boutroux, summing up his thesis La contingence des Lois de la Nature, indicates clearly in his concluding chapter his belief in contingency, freedom and creativeness. The old adage, "nothing is lost, nothing is created," to which science seems inclined to attach itself, has not an absolute value, for in the hierarchy of creatures contingency, freedom, newness appear in the higher ranks. There is at work no doubt a principle of conservation, but this must not lead us to deny the existence and action of another principle, that of creation. The world rises from inorganic to organic forms, from matter to spirit, and in man himself from mere sensibility to intelligence, with its capacity for criticising and observing, and to will capable of acting upon things and modifying them by freedom.
Boutroux inclines to a doctrine of finalism somewhat after the manner of Ravaisson. The world he conceives as attracted to an end; the beautiful and the good are ideals seeking to be realised; but this belief in finality does not, he expressly maintains, exclude contingency. To illustrate this, Boutroux uses a metaphor from seamanship: the sailors in a ship have a port to make for, yet their adaptations to the weather and sea en route permit of contingency along with the finality involved in their making for port. So it is with beings in nature. They have not merely the one end, to exist amid the obstacles and difficulties around them, "they have an ideal to realise, and this ideal consists in approaching to God, to his likeness, each after his kind. The ideal varies with the creatures, because each has his special nature, and can only imitate God in and by his own nature."*
[Footnote * : La Contingence des Lois de la Nature, p. 158.]
Boutroux's doctrine of freedom and contingency is not opposed to a teleological conception of the universe, and in this respect he stands in contrast to Bergson, who, in the rigorous application of his theory of freedom, rules out all question of teleology. With Renouvier and with Bergson, however, Boutroux agrees in maintaining that this freedom, which is the basis of contingency in things, is not and cannot be a datum of experience, directly or indirectly, because experience only seizes things which are actually realised, whereas this freedom is a creative power, anterior to the act. Heredity, instinct, character and habit are words by which we must not be misled or overawed into a disbelief in freedom. They are not absolutely fatal and fully determined. The same will, insists Boutroux, which has created a habit can conquer it. Will must not be paralysed by bowing to the assumed supremacy of instincts or habits. Habit itself is not a contradiction of spontaneity; it is itself a result of spontaneity, a state of spontaneity itself, and does not exclude contingency or freedom.
Metaphysics can, therefore, according to Boutroux, construct a doctrine of freedom based on the conception of contingency. The supreme principles according to this philosophy will be laws, not those of the positive sciences, but the laws of beauty and goodness, expressing in some measure the divine life and supposing free agents. In fact the triumph of the good and the beautiful will result in the replacement of laws of nature, strictly so called, by the free efforts of wills tending to perfection—that is, to God.
Further studies upon the problem of freedom are to be found in Boutroux's lectures given at the Sorbonne in 1892-93 in the course entitled De l'Idée de la Loi naturelle dans la Science et la Philosophie contemporaines. He there recognises in freedom the crucial question at issue between the scientists and the philosophers, for he states the object of this course of lectures as being a critical examination of the notion we have of the laws of nature, with a view to determining the situation of human personality, particularly in regard to free action.* Boutroux recognises that when the domain of science was less extensive and less rigorous than it is now it was much easier to believe in freedom. The belief in Destiny possessed by the ancients has faded, but we may well ask ourselves, says Boutroux, whether modern science has not replaced it by a yet more rigorous fatalism.† He considers that the modern doctrine of determinism rests upon two assumptions—namely, that mathematics is a perfectly intelligible science, and is the expression of absolute determinism; also that mathematics can be applied with exactness to reality. These assumptions the lecturer shows to be unjustifiable. Mathematics and experience can never be fitted exactly into each other, for there are elements in our experience and in our own nature which cannot be mathematically expressed. This Boutroux well emphasises in his lecture upon sociological laws, where he asserts that history cannot be regarded as the unrolling of a single law, nor can the principle of causality, strictly speaking, be applied to it.‡ An antecedent certainly may be an influence but not a cause, as properly understood. He here agrees with Renouvier s position and attitude to history, and shows the vital bearing of the problem of freedom upon the philosophy of history, to which we shall presently give our special attention.
[Footnote * : De l'Idée de la Loi naturelle, Lecture IV., p. 29]
[Footnote † : Compare Janet's remark, given on p. 136.]
[Footnote ‡ : Lecture XIII.]
Instead of the ideal of science, a mathematical unity, experience shows us, Boutroux affirms, a hierarchy of beings, displaying variety and spontaneity—in short, freedom. So far, therefore, from modern science being an advocate of universal determinism, it is really, when rightly regarded, a demonstration, not of necessity, but of freedom. Boutroux's treatment of the problem of freedom thus demonstrates very clearly its connection with that of science, and also with that of progress. It forms pre-eminently the central problem.
The idea of freedom is prominent in the "philosophy of action" and in the Bergsonian philosophy; indeed, Bergson's treatment of the problem is the culmination of the development of the idea in Cournot, Renouvier and the neo-spiritualists. In Blondel the notion is not so clearly worked out, as there are other considerations upon which he wishes to insist. Blondel is deeply concerned with the power of ideals over action, and his thought of freedom has affinities to the psychology of the idées-forces. This is apparent in his view of the will, where he does not admit a purely voluntarist doctrine. His insistence on the dynamic of the will in action is clear, but he reminds us that the will does not cause or produce everything, for the will wills to be what is not yet; it strives for achievement, to gain something beyond itself. Much of Blondel's treatment of freedom is coloured by his religious and moral psychology, factors with which Bergson does not greatly concern himself in his writings. Blondel endeavours to maintain man's freedom of action and at the same time to remain loyal to the religious notion of a Divine Providence, or something akin to that. Consequently he is led to the dilemma which always presents itself to the religious consciousness when it asserts its own freedom—namely, how can that freedom be consistent with Divine guidance or action? Christian theology has usually been determinist in character, but Blondel attempts to save freedom by looking upon God as a Being immanent in man.
Bergson makes Freedom a very central point in his philosophy, and his treatment of it bears signs of the influence of De Biran, Ravaisson, Lachelier, Guyau and Boutroux. He rejects, however, the doctrine of finality as upheld by Ravaisson, Lachelier and Boutroux, while he stresses the contingency which this last thinker had brought forward. His solution of the problem is, however, peculiarly his own, and is bound up with his fundamental idea of change, or LA DURÉE.
In his work Les Données immédiates de la Conscience, or Time and Free-Will, he criticises the doctrine of physical determinism, which is based on the principle of the conservation of energy, and on a purely mechanistic conception of the universe. He here points out, and later stresses in his Matiere et Mémoire, the fact that it has not been proved that a strictly determined psychical state corresponds to a definite cerebral state. We have no warrant for concluding that because the physiological and the psychological series exhibit some corresponding terms that therefore the two series are absolutely parallel. To do so is to settle the problem of freedom in an entirely a priori manner, which is unjustifiable.
The more subtle and plausible case for psychological determinism Bergson shows to be no more tenable than that offered for the physical. It is due to adherence to the vicious Association-psychology, which is a psychology without a self. To say the self is determined by motive will not suffice, for in a sense it is true, in another sense it is not, and we must be careful of our words. If we say the self acts in accordance with the strongest motive, well and good, but how do we know it is the strongest? Only because it has prevailed—that is, only because the self acted upon it, which is totally different from claiming that the self was determined by it externally. To say the self is determined by certain tives is to say it is self-determined. The essential thing in all this is the vitality of the self.
The whole difficulty, Bergson points out, arises from the fact that all attempts to demonstrate freedom tend only to strengthen the artificial case for determinism, because freedom is only characteristic of a self in action. He is here in line on this point with Renouvier and Boutroux, although the reasons he gives for it go beyond in psychological penetration those assigned by these thinkers. When our action is over, says Bergson, it seems plausible to argue a case for determinism because of our spatial conception of time and the relationships of events in time. We have a habit of thinking in terms of space, by mathematical time, not in real time or la durée as Bergson calls it, the time in which the living soul acts.
Bergson thus makes room in the universe for a freedom of the human will, a creative activity, and thus delivers us from the bonds of necessity and fatalism in which the physical sciences and the associationist psychology would bind us. We perceive ourselves as centres of indetermination, creative spirits. We must guard our freedom, for it is an essential attribute of spirit. In so far as we tend to become dominated by matter, which acts upon us in habit and convention, we lose our freedom. It is not absolute, and many never achieve it, for their personality never shines forth at all: they live their lives in habit and routine, victims of automatism. We have, however, Bergson urges, great power of creation. He stresses, as did Guyau, the Conception of Life, as free, expanding, and in several respects his view of freedom is closer to that of Guyau than to that of Boutroux, in spite of the latter's contingency. There is no finalism admitted by Bergson, for he sees in any teleology only "a reversed mechanism."
Obviously the maintenance of such a doctrine of freedom as that of Bergson is of central importance in any philosophy which contains it. Our conceptions of ethics and of progress depend upon our view of freedom. For Bergson "the portals of the future stand wide open, the future is being made." He is an apostle of a doctrine of absolute contingency which he applied to the evolution of the world, in his famous volume L'Evolution Créatrice (published in 1907). His philosophy has been termed pessimistic by some in view of his rejection of any teleological conception. Such a doctrine would conflict with his "free" universe and his absolute contingency. On the other hand, it leaves open an optimistic view, because of its freedom, its insistence upon the possibilities of development. It is not only a reaction against the earlier doctrines of determinism, it is a deliverance of the human soul which has always refused, even when religious, to abandon entirely the belief in its own freedom.
Such is the doctrine of freedom which closes our period, a striking contrast to the determinism which, under the influence of modern science, characterised its opening. The critique of science and the assaults upon determinism proceeded upon parallel lines. In many respects they were two aspects of the one problem, and in themselves were sufficient to describe the essential development in the thought of our half century, for the considerations of progress, ethics and religion to which we now turn derive their significance largely from what has been set forth in these chapters on Science and Freedom.
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