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very large increase of men, esteemed scientific, who cannot distinguish a process of imagination from one of induction? Is there not rapidly rising up a pseudo-scientific school of savants whose notions of evidence are essentially different from those of the older type of scientific man represented by a Herschell or Faraday, a Brewster, Forbes, or Thomson? It seems to me that these questions must be answered in the affirmative; and that it is almost exclusively from the new school—the school which draws its resources largely from imagination—that the ranks of the so-called scientific materialism of our day are recruited.
Such causes of the spread of materialism as the following might also be dwelt upon, but it must suffice simply to mention them, (a) Political and social dissatisfaction. In some countries and in certain classes this has been a most powerful cause. In proof, I need only refer to secularism in England and to socialism in France and Germany. (b) The growth of rationalism and of aversion to the supernatural. Materialism is the natural and logical culmination of this movement. It is only in and through materialism that the elimination of everything supernatural can be reached, (c) The predominance of material interests,—of the mercantile spirit,—of the love of wealth, worldly display, and pleasure. The life determines theory even more than theory influences life.
Materialism, it must be added, has another class of causes. It has all the reasons which it can urge on its own behalf. It would be unfair, at this stage, to insinuate that these are either few or feeble. We shall examine them in next lecture.
CONTEMPORARY OR SCIENTIFIC MATERIALISM. I.
Materialism as a reasoned theory of the universe,—materialism as a philosophy,—is more than two thousand years old. During that long period it has had various fates and fortunes. It has at one time ebbed, and at another flowed; it has suffered many checks and defeats, and has also enjoyed many successes and triumphs. It has never been more than partially and temporarily vanquished; it has sometimes seemed as if it would carry all before it, and leave no foe undestroyed. Its least sympathetic critic must admit that it has shunned neither conflict with the most formidable antagonists nor the scrutiny of the doubting and discussing intellect; that, on the contrary, its course has been a continuous campaign against all kinds of powers and principalities in the name of free thought and scientific truth; and that, when it has prospered, it has not been under the shadow of authority, but in the light of reason. It may be true that whenever it has been widely prevalent, moral, social, and political influences have contributed to its diffusion; that interests and passions have often been as helpful to it as reasons. But the same may be said with equal justice of all systems. No doctrine rests exclusively on intellectual grounds, or triumphs merely in the strength of pure reason. Materialism, it cannot be denied, has constantly appealed to reason, and has prevailed most in epochs characterised by activity of reason. It has not faded and decayed, but grown and flourished, with the increase and expansion of scientific light. It was never more prevalent than in the present day, when the spirit of investigation is everywhere obviously and energetically at work.
Materialism could never have thus lasted and flourished had it not been a very plausible theory. It could never have had the history which it has had unless it had much to say for itself. Make full allowance for interests and passions operating in its favour, yet interests and passions can only sustain and propagate either themselves or any doctrine or movement when they are accompanied by the persuasion that reason is on their side. Nothing is more impotent than mere passion—blind passion,—except it be mere interest —interest consciously separated from or opposed to truth. Materialism must be able to adduce in its favour arguments which are fitted to impress and convince both the popular and the scientific mind. Its claims to acceptance must rest on grounds which, while not recondite or difficult to understand, are yet of a kind calculated to satisfy many intellects which have been disciplined by physical science.
That this is the case I must endeavour to show. It is clearly impossible to examine in a single lecture even a very few of the most celebrated vindications of contemporary materialism, while it would hardly be fair or satisfactory to discuss merely one of them. It seems necessary, therefore, to treat of contemporary materialism, or, as it is sometimes called, scientific materialism, in a general way. This requires that I should begin by indicating as comprehensively as is consistent with brevity the general character of the argumentation which is employed in its support.
In the first place, then, materialism claims to satisfy better than any other system the legitimate demands of the reason for unity. There cannot be more than one ultimate explanation of things. If the variety of existences in the universe are traced back to two or more causes, the intellect must sooner or later perceive that it has stopped abruptly and left its work incomplete. The two