At first sight it would appear that thought and emotion have nothing in common with the buzzing of atoms; but, in truth, these little lumps need only to be properly combined to become self-conscious, and think, and feel, and hope, and aspire; and, if they have come forward under the proper conditions, they may even pray and worship. Whatever of nobility, of heroism, and of high manhood there may have been in the past, it was only a material combination, and had an exact physical equivalent. So completely is mind the result of organization, that it is even held that if a brain could be made exactly like that of Socrates, the owner would have the memory, the thought, the consciousness of Socrates. Two brains which are physically equivalent are also mentally equivalent. Construct, today, the brain of Plato as it was in his old age, and that brain would remember its early association with Socrates, the scenes at his trial and in the prison, the composition of the dialogues, and all that the real Plato actually experienced. Manufacture Cromwell's brain, and it could give you an exact account, from its own consciousness, of the battle at Naseby and the triumph at Marston Moor. It could tell of the Long Parliament, the condemnation of the King, and the Lord-Protectorship. Any man's thought, memory, consciousness, could be completely recovered by reconstructing his brain. If there had been a spectator who could detect the position of the forces in that nebulous mass, he could have reasoned mechanically and mathematically, to orbital rings and solid globes, to man and his works, to Homer and the Iliad, to Newton and the Principia, to Milton and the Paradise Lost, to Shakspeare and Hamlet. By simple deductive reasoning, that spectator could have foreseen all our art, our science, our civilization, and could have prophesied all that is yet to come. He could have foretold all the folly and suffering and sin of men, and could have written human history, while yet the race was unborn. There is not a mote that trembles in the sunbeam, nor a leaf that is driven in the wind, whose existence and exact position he could not have foretold. The problem would, indeed, have been a complex one, and would have outrun the resources of our mathematics, but still it would have been a purely mechanical question. There is not a thought that ever toiled, or that ever shall toil, in a human brain, there is not an ache that ever wrung a human heart, that was not potentially there. The physical combinations that represent truth and honor, piety and affection, were all latent there. Our longings for knowledge were there; and when we inquire after the origin of things our thoughts but return to their early home. Mr. Spencer, and his philosophy, and the criticisms upon it, were there. The dancing atoms whirled and whirled, until they became self-conscious, and thought, and reflected, and

[ocr errors]

wrote their autobiography in the philosophy of Mr. Spencer. I am not misrepresenting the theory. Prof. Tyndall says of it: “Strip it naked, and

you stand face to face with the notion that not only the more ignoble forms of animalcular or animal life, not alone the nobler forms of the horse and lion, not alone the exquisite and wonderful mechanism of the human body, but that the human mind itself-emotion, intellect, will, and all their phenomena—were once latent in a fiery cloud."* In this evolution there has been no guiding Mind, but only the working of physical force. Mr. Spencer demands no purpose, but only a power. One aim of his philosophy is to show that an intelligent Creator is needless. He is impatient of the doctrine that creation is the work of wisdom, and calls it the “carpenter theory.” If we consider the fact and function of reproduction, which run through all organic nature, it would seem that here is overwhelming proof of a purpose to preserve the species; but we are not allowed to think so, on pain of being charged with “fetichism.” If we think of the eye or ear as it forms in the womb, it would seem that the power at work must understand the laws of acoustics and optics, to form these organs in such exact and complex accordance with them. It would seem, too, that the formation of these organs before they are needed indicates a knowledge of future wants, and a purpose of supplying them ; but this belief also lies under the ban of fetichism. We can hardly help believing that the several organs were intended to perform those functions which they actually do perform ; but this thought is only a species of the primitive fetichism. The eyes are used to see with, but they were not intended for seeing. The ears hear, but they were not designed for hearing. We see and hear because we have

*"Fragments of Science,” p. 159.


and ears ; but we are forbidden to say that eyes and ears exist in order that we may see. The organs of reproduction serve to preserve the species, but they were not made for any such end. They were evolved and used for this purpose. Every thing, no matter how complex and purposelike in its adaptations, represents the working of a power; nothing whatever exhibits the fulfillment of a purpose. “The transformation of an indefinite, incoherent homogeneity into a definite, coherent heterogeneity, which goes on every-where until it brings about a reverse transformation, is consequent upon certain simple laws of force."* Such is the

" theory. To many it will seem to break down from pure excess of absurdity. At present I make no decision ; but I do insist that every one who is fond of talking magniloquently about evolution should know precisely what he has to prove.

"Yet, strange as it may seem, Mr. Spencer denies that his system is atheistic. The ground of the

* “First Principles," p. 495.


denial is his doctrine of an unknowable. But, upon inquiry, it turns out that this unknowable is merely the substance which underlies phenomena. It has neither sense, intelligence, nor will. To attribute these to it is a species of fetichism. Yet Mr. Spencer dreams that he saves his system from atheism by calling this thing God. We will not quarrel about names. That which we know as matter is set up as the cause of all things. This matter, working according to mechanical laws, without intelligence or purpose, has produced the order of the world about us. All spontaneous action is distinctly repudiated. This is the doctrine; and this is essential atheism.

Mr. Spencer further denies that his system is materialistic. The New Philosophy plumes itself upon rising above the contest between the spiritualist and materialist, and pronounces the question to be a war of words. The claim is the emptiest pretense. “That no idea or feeling arises save as a result of some physical force expended in producing it, is fast becoming a commonplace of science; and whoever duly weighs the evidence will see that nothing but an overwhelming bias in favor of a preconceived theory can explain its non-acceptance." Thatmental force is but transformed physical force, is the primary assumption. The mind itself is a “series of states of consciousness ;" and a state of conscious

*“First Principles," p. 280.

« ElőzőTovább »