FREE Catholic Classes
As the word itself signifies, Materialism is a philosophical system which regards matter as the only reality in the world, which undertakes to explain every event in the universe as resulting from the conditions and activity of matter, and which thus denies the existence of God and the soul. It is diametrically opposed to Spiritualism and Idealism, which, in so far as they are one-sided and exclusive, declare that everything in the world is spiritual, and that the world and even matter itself are mere conceptions or ideas in the thinking subject. Materialism is older than Spiritualism, if we regard the development of philosophy as beginning in Greece. The ancient Indian philosophy, however, is idealistic ; according to it there is only one real being, Brahma ; everything else is appearance, Maja . In Greece the first attempts at philosophy were more or less materialistic; they assumed the existence of a single primordial matter -- water, earth, fire, air -- or of the four elements from which the world was held to have developed. Materialism was methodically developed by the Atomists. The first and also the most important systematic Materialist was Democritus, the "laughing philosopher ". He taught that out of nothing comes nothing; that everything is the result of combination and division of parts (atoms); that these atoms, separated by empty spaces, are infinitely numerous and varied. Even to man he extended his cosmological Materialism, and was thus the founder of Materialism in the narrow sense, that is the denial of the soul. The soul is a complex of very fine, smooth, round, and fiery atoms : these are highly mobile and penetrate the whole body, to which they impart life. Empedocles was not a thorough-going Materialist, although be regarded the four elements with love and hatred as the formative principles of the universe, and refused to recognize a spiritual Creator of the world. Aristotle reproaches the Ionian philosophers in general with attempting to explain the evolution of the world without the Nous (intelligence); he regarded Protagoras, who first introduced a spiritual principle, as a sober man among the inebriated.
The Socratic School introduced a reaction against Materialism. A little later, however, Materialism found a second Democritus in Epicurus, who treated the system in greater detail and gave it a deeper foundation. The statement that nothing comes from nothing, he supported by declaring that otherwise everything might come from everything. This argument is very pertinent, since if there were nothing, nothing could come into existence, i.e. if there were no cause. An almighty cause can of itself through its power supply a substitute for matter, which we cannot create but can only transform. Epicurus further asserted that bodies alone exist; only the void is incorporeal. He distinguished, however, between compound bodies and simple bodies or atoms, which are absolutely unchangeable. Since space is infinite, the atoms must likewise be infinitely numerous. This last deduction is not warranted, since, even in infinite space, the bodies might be limited in number -- in fact, they must be, as otherwise they would entirely fill space and therefore render movement impossible. And yet Epicurus ascribes motion to the atoms, i.e. constant motion downwards. Since many of them deviate from their original direction, collisions result and various combinations are formed. The difference between one body and another is due solely to different modes of atomic combination; the atoms themselves have no quality, and differ only in size, shape, and weight. These materialistic speculations contradict directly the universally recognized laws of nature. Inertia is an essential quality of matter, which cannot set itself in motion, cannot of itself fix the direction of its motion, least of all change the direction of the motion once imparted to it. The existence of all these capabilities in matter is assumed by Epicurus : the atoms fall downwards, before there is either "up" or "down"; they have weight, although there is as yet no earth to lend them heaviness by its attraction. From the random clash of the atoms could result only confusion and not order, least of all that far-reaching design which is manifested in the arrangement of the world, especially in organic structures and mental activities. However, the soul and its origin present no difficulty to the Materialist. According to him the soul is a kind of vapour scattered throughout the whole body and mixed with a little heat. The bodies surrounding us give off continually certain minute particles which penetrate to our souls through our sense-organs and excite mental images. With the dissolution of the body, the corporeal soul is also dissolved. This view betrays a complete misapprehension of the immaterial nature of psychical states as opposed to those of the body -- to say nothing of the childish notion of sense-perception, which modern physiology can regard only with an indulgent smile.
Epicurean Materialism received poetic expression and further development in the didactic poem of the Roman Lucretius. This bitter opponent of the gods, like the modern representatives of Materialism, places it in outspoken opposition to religion. His cosmology is that of Epicurus ; but Lucretius goes much further, inasmuch as he really seeks to give an explanation of the order in the world, which Epicurus referred unhesitatingly to mere chance. Lucretius asserts that it is just one of the infinitely numerous possibilities in the arrangement of the atoms ; the present order was as possible as any other. He takes particular pains to disprove the immortality of the soul, seeking thus to dispel the fear of death, which is the cause of so much care and crime. The soul ( anima ) and the mind ( animus ) consist of the smallest, roundest, and most mobile atoms. That "feeling is an excitement of the atoms ", he lays down as a firmly established principle. He says: "When the flavour of the wine vanishes, or the odour of the ointment passes away in the air, we notice no diminution of weight. Even so with the body when the soul has disappeared." He overlooks the fact that the flavour and odour are not necessarily lost, even though we cannot measure them. That they do not perish is now certain and, we must therefore conclude, still less does the spiritual soul cease to exist. However, the soul is no mere odour of a body, but a being with real activity; consequently, it must itself be real, and likewise distinct from the body, since thought and volition are incorporeal activities, and not movement which, according to Lucretius at least, is the only function of the atoms.
Christianity reared a mighty dam against Materialism, and it was only with the return to antiquity in the so-called restoration of the sciences that the Humanists again made it a powerful factor. Giordano Bruno, the Pantheist, was also a Materialist: "Matter is not without its forms, but contains them all; and since it carries what is wrapped up in itself, it is in truth all nature and the mother of all the living." But the classical age of Materialism began with the eighteenth century, when de la Mettrie (1709-51) wrote his "Histoire naturelle de l'âme" and "L'homme machine." He holds that all that feels must be material: "The soul is formed, it grows and decreases with the organs of the body, wherefore it must also share in the latter's death" -- a palpable fallacy, since even if the body is only the soul's instrument, the soul must be affected by the varying conditions of the body. In the case of this Materialist we find the moral consequences of the system revealed without disguise. In his two works, "La Volupté" and "L'art de jouer", he glorifies licentiousness. The most famous work of this period is the "Système de la nature" of Baron Holbach (1723-89). According to this work there exists nothing but nature, and all beings, which are supposed to be beyond nature, are creatures of the imagination. Man is a constituent part of nature ; his moral endowment is simply a modification of his physical constitution, derived from his peculiar organization. Even Voltaire found himself compelled to offer a determined opposition to these extravagant attacks on everything spiritual.
In Germany Materialism was vigorously assailed, especially by Leibniz. As, however, this philosopher sought to replace it with his doctrine of monads, an out-and-out spiritualistic system, he did not give a real refutation. On the other hand, Kant was supposed to have broken definitively the power of Materialism by the so-called idealistic argument, which runs: Matter is revealed to us only in consciousness ; it cannot therefore be the cause or the principle of consciousness. This argument proves absolutely nothing against Materialism, unless we admit that our consciousness creates matter, i.e. that matter has no existence independent of consciousness. If consciousness or the soul creates matter, the latter cannot impart existence to the soul or to any psychical activity. Materialism would indeed be thus utterly annihilated: there would be no matter. But, if matter is real, it may possess all kinds of activities, even psychical, as the Materialists aver. As long as the impossibility of this is not demonstrated, Materialism is not refuted. Idealism or Phenomenalism, which entirely denies the existence of matter, is more absurd than Materialism. There is, however, some truth in the Kantian reasoning. Consciousness or the psychical is far better known to us than the material; what matter really is, no science has yet made clear. The intellectual or the psychical, on the other hand, is presented immediately to our consciousness ; we experience our thoughts, volitions, and feelings; in their full clearness they stand before the eye of the mind. From the Kantian standpoint a refutation of Materialism is out of the question. To overcome it we must show that the soul is an entity, independent of and essentially distinct from the body, an immaterial substance ; only as such can it be immortal and survive the dissolution of the body. For Kant, however, substance is a purely subjective form of the understanding, by means of which we arrange our experiences. The independence of the soul would thus not be objective; it would be simply an idea conceived by us. Immortality would also be merely a thought-product; this the Materialists gladly admit, but they call it, in plainer terms, a pure fabrication.
The German Idealists, Fichte, Hegel, and Schelling, seriously espoused the Phenomenalism of Kant, declaring that matter, and, in fact, the whole universe, is a subjective product. Thereby indeed Materialism is entirely overcome, but the Kantian method of refutation is reduced to absurdity. The reaction against this extravagant Spiritualism was inevitable, and it resulted by a sort of necessary consequence in the opposite extreme of outspoken Materialism. Repelled by these fantastic views, so contrary to all reality, men turned their whole energy to the investigation of nature. The extraordinary success achieved in this domain led many investigators to overestimate the importance of matter, its forces, and its laws with which they believed they could explain even the spiritual. The chief representatives of Materialism as a system during this period are Büchner (1824-99), the author of "Kraft und Stoff"; K. Vogt (1817-95), who held that thought is "secreted" by the brain, as gall by the liver and urine by the kidneys: Czolbe (1817-73); Moleschott, to whom his Materialism brought political fame. Born on 9 August, 1822, at Herzogenbusch, North Brabant, he studied medicine, natural science, and the philosophy of Hegel at Heidelberg from 1842. After some years of medical practice in Utrecht, he qualified as instructor in physiology and anthropology at the University of Heidelberg. His writings, especially his "Kreislauf des Lebens" (1852), created a great sensation. On account of the gross materialism, which he displayed both in his works and his lectures, he received a warning from the academic senate by command of the Government, whereupon he accepted in 1854 a call to the newly founded University of Zürich. In 1861 Cavour, the Italian premier, granted him a chair at Turin, whence fifteen years later he was called to the Sapienza in Rome, which owed its foundation to the popes. Here death suddenly overtook him in 1893, and, just as he had had burnt the bodies of his wife and daughter who had committed suicide, he also appointed in his will that his own body should be reduced to ashes. The most radical rejection of everything ideal is contained in the revised work "Der Einzige und sein Eigentum" (1845; 3rd ed., 1893) of Max Stirner, which rejects everything transcending the particular Ego and its self-will.
The brilliant success of the natural sciences gave Materialism a powerful support. The scientist, indeed, is exposed to the danger of overlooking the soul, and consequently of denying it. Absorption in the study of material nature is apt to blind one to the spiritual; but it is an evident fallacy to deny the soul, on the ground that one cannot experimentally prove its existence by physical means. Natural science oversteps its limits when it encroaches on the spiritual domain and claims to pronounce there an expert decision, and it is a palpable error to declare that science demonstrates the non-existence of the soul. Various proofs from natural science are of course brought forward by the Materialists. The "closed system of natural causation " is appealed to: experience everywhere finds each natural phenomenon based upon another as its cause, and the chain of natural causes would be broken were the same brought in. On the other hand, Sigwart (1830-1904) justly observes that the soul has its share in natural causation, and is therefore included in the system. At most it could be deduced from this system that a pure spirit, that God could not interfere in the course of nature ; but this cannot be proved by either experience or reason. On the contrary it is clear that the Author of nature can interfere in its course, and history informs us of His many miraculous interventions. In any case it is beyond doubt that our bodily conditions are influenced by our ideas and volitions, and this influence is more clearly perceived by us than the causality of fire in the production of heat. We must therefore reject as false the theory of natural causation, if this means the exclusion of spiritual causes.
But modern science claims to have given positive proof that in the human body there is no place for the soul. The great discovery by R. Mayer (1814-78), Joule (1818-89), and Helmholtz (1821-94) of the conservation of energy proves that energy cannot disappear in nature and cannot originate there. But the soul could of itself create energy, and there would also be energy lost, whenever an external stimulus influenced the soul and gave rise to sensation, which is not a form of energy. Now recent experiment has shown that the energy in the human body is exactly equivalent to the nutriment consumed. In these facts, however, there is absolutely nothing against the existence of the soul. The law of the conservation of energy is an empirical law, not a fundamental principle of thought; it is deduced from the material world and is based on the activity of matter. A body cannot set itself in motion, can produce no force; it must be impelled by another, which in the impact loses its own power of movement. This is not lost, but is changed into the new movement. Thus, in the material world, motion, which is really kinetic energy, can neither originate nor altogether cease. This law does not hold good for the immaterial world, which is not subject to the law of inertia. That our higher intellectual activities are not bound by the law is most plainly seen in our freedom of will, by which we determine ourselves either to move or to remain at rest. But the intellectual activities take place with the cooperation of the sensory processes; and, since these latter are functions of the bodily organs, they are like them subject to the law of inertia. They do not enter into activity without some stimulus; they cannot stop their activity without some external influence. They are, therefore, subject to the law of the conservation of energy , whose applicability to the human body, as shown by biological experiment, proves nothing against the soul. Consequently, while even without experiment, one must admit the law in the case of sentient beings, it can in no wise affect a pure spirit or an angel. The "Achilles" of materialistic philosophers, therefore, proves nothing against the soul. It was accordingly highly opportune when the eminent physiologist, Dubois Reymond (1818-96), called a vigorous halt to his colleague by his "Ignoramus et Ignorabimus". In his lectures, "Ueber die Grenzen der Naturerkenntniss" (Leipzig, 1872), he shows that feeling, consciousness, etc., cannot be explained from the atoms. He errs indeed in declaring permanently inexplicable everything for which natural science cannot account; the explanation must be furnished by philosophy.
Even theologians have defended Materialism. Thus, for example, F.D. Strauss in his work "Der alte und neue Glaube" (1872) declares openly for Materialism, and even adopts it as the basis of his religion; the material universe with its laws although they occasionally crush us, must be the object of our veneration. The cultivation of music compensates him for the loss of all ideal goods. Among the materialistic philosophers of this time, Ueberweg (1826-71), author of the well-known "History of Philosophy ", deserves mention; it is noteworthy that he at first supported the Aristotelean teleology, but later fell away into materialistic mechanism. There is indeed considerable difficulty in demonstrating mathematically the final object of nature ; with those to whom the consideration of the marvellous wisdom displayed in its ordering does not bring the conviction that it cannot owe its origin to blind physical forces, proofs will avail but little. To us, indeed, it is inconceivable how any one can overlook or deny the evidences of design and of the adaptation of means for the attainment of manifold ends.
The teleological question, so awkward for Materialism, was thought to be finally settled by Darwinism which, as K. Vogt cynically expressed it, God was shown the door. The blind operation of natural forces and laws without spiritual agencies, was held to explain the origin of species and their purposiveness as well. Although Darwin himself was not a Materialist, his mechanical explanation of teleology brought water to the mill of Materialism, which recognizes only the mechanism of the atoms. This evolution of matter from the protozoon to man, announced from university chairs as the result of science, was eagerly taken up by the social democrats, and became the fundamental tenet of their conception of the world and of life. Although officially socialists disown their hatred of religion, the rejection of the higher destiny of man and the consequent falling back on the material order serve them most efficiently in stirring up the deluded and discontented masses. Against this domination of Materialism among high and low there set in towards the end of the nineteenth century a reaction, which was due in no small measure to the alarming translation of the materialistic theory into practice by the socialists and anarchists. At bottom, however, it is but another instance of what the oldest experience shows: the line of progress is not vertical but spiral. Overstraining in one direction starts a rebound in the opposite extreme. The spiritual will not be reduced to the material, but it frequently commits the error of refusing to tolerate the coexistence of matter.
Thus at present the reaction against Materialism leads in many instances to an extreme Spiritualism or Phenomenalism, which regards matter merely as a projection of the soul. Hence also the widely-echoed cry: "Back to Kant ". Kant regarded matter as entirely the product of consciousness, and this view is outspokenly adopted by L. Busse, who, in his work "Geist und Körper, Seele und Leib" (Leipzig, 1903), earnestly labours to discredit Materialism. He treats exhaustively the relations of the psychical to the physical, refutes the so-called psycho-physical parallelism, and decides in favour of the interaction of soul and body. His conclusion is the complete denial of matter. "Metaphysically the world-picture changes . . . . The corporeal world as such disappears -- it is a mere appearance for the apprehending mind -- and is succeeded by something spiritual. The idealistic-spiritualistic metaphysics, whose validity we here tacitly assume without further justification, recognizes no corporeal but only spiritual being. 'All reality is spiritual', is its verdict" (p. 479).
How little Materialism has to fear from Kantian rivalry is plainly shown, among others, by the natural philosopher Uexk ll. In the "Neue Rundschau" of 1907, Umrisse einer neuen Weltanschauung, he most vigorously opposes Darwinism and Haeckelism, but finally rejects with Kant the substantiality of the soul, and even falls back into the Materialism which he so severely condemns. He says: "The disintegrating influence of Haeckelism on the spiritual life of the masses comes, not from the consequences which his conception of eternal things calls forth, but from the Darwinian thesis that there is no purpose in nature. Really, one might suppose that on the day, when the great discovery of the descent of man from the ape was made the call went forth: 'Back to the Ape'." The walls, which confine Materialism, still stand in all their firmness: it is impossible to explain the purposive character of life from material forces." "We are so constituted that we are capable of recognizing certain purposes with our intellect, while others we long for and enjoy through our sense of beauty. One general plan binds all our spiritual and emotional forces into a unity." "This view of life Haeckel seeks to replace by his senseless talk about cell-souls and soul-cells, and thinks by his boyish trick to annihilate the giant Kant. Chamberlain's words on Haeckelism will find an echo in the soul of every educated person : 'It is not poetry, science, or philosophy, but a still-born bastard of all three'." But what does the "Giant Kant" teach? That we ourselves place the purpose in the things, but that it is not in the things! This view is also held by Materialists. Uexk ll finds the refutation of Materialism in the "empirical scheme of the objects", which is formed from our sense-perceptions. This is for him, indeed, identical with the Bewegungsmelodie (melody of motion), to which he reduces objects. Thus again there is no substance but only motion, which Materialism likewise teaches. We shall later find the Kantian Uexk ll among the outspoken Materialists.
Philosophers of another tendency endeavour to refute Materialism by supposing everything endowed with life and soul. To this class belong Fechner, Wundt, Paulsen, Haeckel, and the botanist Franc, who ascribe intelligence even to plants. One might well believe that this is a radical remedy for all materialistic cravings. The pity is that Materialists should be afforded an opportunity for ridicule by such a fiction. That brute matter, atoms, electrons should possess life is contrary to all experience. It is a boast of modern science that it admits only what is revealed by exact observation; but the universal and unvarying verdict of observation is that, in the inorganic world, everything shows characteristics opposite to those which life exhibits. It is also a serious delusion to believe that one can explain the human soul and its unitary consciousness on the supposition of cell-souls. A number of souls could never have one and the same consciousness. Consciousness and every psychic activity are immanent, they abide in the subject and do not operate outwardly; hence each individual soul has its own consciousness, and of any other knows absolutely nothing. A combination of several souls into one consciousness is thus impossible. But, even if it were possible, this composite consciousness would have a completely different content from the cell-souls, since it would be a marvel if all these felt, thought, and willed exactly the same. In this view immortality would be as completely done away with as it is in Materialism.
We have described this theory as an untenable fiction. R. Semon, however, undertakes to defend the existence of memory in all living beings in his work "Die Mneme als erhaltendes Prinzip im Wechsel des organischen Geschehens" (Leipzig, 1905). He says: "The effect of a stimulus on living substance continues after the stimulation, it has an engraphic effect. This latter is called the engram of the corresponding stimulus, and the sum of the engrams, which the organism inherits or acquires during its life, is the mneme , or memory in the widest sense." Now, if by this word the persistence of psychic and corporeal states were alone signified, there would be little to urge against this theory. But by memory is understood a psychic function, for whose presence in plants and minerals not the slightest plea can be offered. The persistence is even more easily explained in the case of inorganic nature. This Hylozoism, which, as Kant rightly declares, is the death of all science, is also called the "double aspect theory" (Zweiseitentheorie). Fechner indeed regards the material as only the outer side of the spiritual. The relation between them is that of the convex side of a curve to the concave; they are essentially one, regarded now from without an again from within -- the same idea expressed in different words. By this explanation Materialism is not overcome but proclaimed. For as to the reality of matter no sensible man can doubt ; consequently, if the spiritual is merely a special aspect of matter, it also must be material. The convex side of a ring is really one thing with the concave; there is but the same ring regarded from two different sides. Thus Fechner, in spite of all his disclaimers of Materialism, must deny the immortality of the soul, since in the dissolution of the body the soul must also perish, and he labours to no effect when he tries to bolster up the doctrine of survival with all kinds of fantastic ideas.
Closely connected with this theory is the so-called "psycho-physical parallelism ", which most modern psychologists since Fechner, especially Wundt and Paulsen, energetically advocate. This emphasizes so strongly the spirituality of the soul that it rejects as impossible any influence of the soul on the body, and thus makes spiritual and bodily activities run side by side (parallel) without affecting each other. Wundt, indeed, goes so far as to make the whole world consist of will-units, and regards matter as mechanized spiritual activity. Paulsen, on the other hand, endeavours to explain the concurrence of the two series of activities by declaring that the material processes of the body are the reflection of the spiritual. One might well think that there could not be a more emphatic denial of Materialism. Yet this exaggerated Spiritualism and Idealism agrees with the fundamental dogma of the Materialists in denying the substantiality and immortality of the soul. It asserts that the soul is nothing else than the aggregate of the successive internal activities without any psychical essence. This declaration leads inevitably to Materialism, because activity without an active subject is inconceivable; and, since the substantiality of the soul is denied, the body must be the subject of the spiritual activities, as otherwise it would be quite impossible that to certain physical impressions there should correspond perceptions, volitions, and movements. In any case this exaggerated Spiritualism, which no intelligent person can accept, cannot be regarded as a refutation of Materialism. Apart from Christian philosophy no philosophical system has yet succeeded in successfully combatting Materialism. One needs but a somewhat accurate knowledge of the recent literature of natural science and philosophy to be convinced that the "refutation" of Materialism by means of the latest Idealism is idle talk. Thus, Ostwald proclaims his doctrine of energy the refutation of Materialism, and, in his "Vorlesungen ber Naturphilosophie", endeavours "to fill the yawning chasm, which since Descartes gapes between spirit and matter", by subordinating the ideas of matter and spirit under the concept of energy. Thus, consciousness also is energy, the nerve-energy of the brain. He is inclined "to recognize consciousness as an essential characteristic of the energy of the central organ, just as space is an essential characteristic of mechanical energy and time of kinetic energy." Is not this Materialism pure and simple?
Entirely materialistic also is the widely accepted physiological explanation of psychical activities, especially of the feelings, such as fear, anger etc. This is defended (e.g.) by Uexküll, whom we have already referred to as a vigorous opponent of Materialism. He endeavours to found, or at least to illustrate this by the most modern experiments. In his work "Der Kampf um die Tierseele" (1903), he says: "Suppose that with the help of refined röntgen rays we could project magnified on a screen in the form of movable shadow-waves the processes in the nervous system of man. According to our present knowledge, we might thus expect the following. We observe the subject of the experiment, when a bell rings near by, and we see the shadow on the screen (representing the wave of excitation) hurry along the auditory nerve to the brain. We follow the shadow into the cerebrum, and, if the person makes a movement in response to the sound, centrifugal shadows are also presented to our observation. This experiment would be in no way different from any physical experiment of a similar nature, except that in the case of the brain with its intricate system of pathways the course of the stimulus and the transformation of the accumulated energy would necessarily form a very complicated and confused picture." But what will be thereby proved or even illustrated? Even without r ntgen rays we know that, in the case of hearing, nerve waves proceed to the brain, and that from the brain motor effects pass out to the peripheral organs. But these effects are mere movements, not psychical perception; for consciousness attests that sensory perception, not to speak of thought and volition, is altogether different from movements, in fact the very opposite. We can think simultaneously of opposites (e.g. existence and nonexistence, round and angular), and these opposites must be simultaneously present in our consciousness, for otherwise we could not compare them, nor perceive and declare their oppositeness. Now, it is absolutely impossible that a nerve or an atom of the brain should simultaneously execute opposite movements. And, not merely in the case of true opposites, but also in the judgment of every distinction, the nerve elements must simultaneously have different movements, of different rapidity and in different directions.
An undisguised Materialism is espoused by A. Kann in his "Naturgeschichte der Moral und die Physik des Denkens", with the sub-title "Der Idealismus eines Materialisten" (Vienna and Leipzig, 1907). He says: "To explain physically the complicated processes of thought, it is above all necessary that the necessity of admitting anything 'psychical' be eliminated. Our ideas as to what is good and bad are for the average man so intimately connected with the psychical that it is a prime necessity to eliminate the psychical from our ideas of morality, etc. Only when pure, material science has built up on its own foundations the whole structure of our morals and ethics can one think of elaborating for unbiased readers what I call the ' Physics of Thinking'. To prepare the ground for the new building, one must first 'clear away the debris of ancient notions', that is ' God, prayer, immortality (the soul )'." The reduction of psychical life to physics is actually attempted by J. Pikler in his treatise "Physik des Seelenlebens" (Leipzig, 1901). He converses with a pupil of the highest form, at first in a very childish way, but finally heavy guns are called into action. "That all the various facts, all the various phenomena of psychical life, all the various states of consciousness are the self-preservation of motion, has not yet, I think, been explained by any psychologist." Such is indeed the case, for, generally speaking, gross Materialism has been rejected. Materialism refers psychical phenomena to movements of the nerve substance ; but self-preservation of motion is motion, and consequently this new psycho-physics is pure Materialism. In any case, matter cannot "self-preserve" its motion; motion persists on its own account in virtue of law of the conservation of energy. Therefore, according to this theory, all matter ought to exhibit psychical phenomena.
Still more necessary and simple was the evolution of the world according to J. Lichtneckert (Neue wissenschaftl. Lebenslehre der Weltalls, Leipzig, 1903). His "Ideal oder Selbstzweckmaterialismus als die absolute Philosophie" (Ideal or End-in-itself Materialism as the Absolute Philosophy ) offers "the scientific solution of all great physical, chemical, astronomical, and physiological world-riddles." Let us select a few ideas from this new absolutist philosophy. "That God and matter are absolutely identical notions, was until today unknown." "Hitherto Materialism investigated the external life of matter, and Idealism its internal life. From the fusion of these two conceptions of life and the world, which since the earliest times have walked their separate ways and fought each other, issues the present 'Absolute Philosophy.' Heretofore Materialism has denied, as a fundamental error, teleology or the striving for an end, and hence also the spiritual or psychical qualities of matter, while Idealism has denied the materiality of the soul or of God. Consequently, a complete and harmonious world-theory could not be reached. The Ideal or End-in-itself Materialism, or Monism, is the crown or acme of all philosophies, since in it is contained the absolute truth, to which the leading intellects of all times have gradually and laboriously contributed. Into it flow all philosophical and religious systems, as streams into the sea." "Spirit or God is matter, and, vice versa, matter is spirit or God. Matter is no raw, lifeless mass, as was hitherto generally assumed, since all chemico-physical processes are self-purposive. Matter, which is the eternal, unending, visible, audible, weighable, measurable etc. deity, is gifted with the highest evolutionary and transforming spiritual or vital qualities, and indeed possesses power to feel, will, think, and remember. All that exists is matter or God. A non-material being does not exist. Even space is matter. . ."
One needs only to indicate such fruits of materialistic science to illustrate in their absurdity the consequences of the pernicious conception of man and the universe known as Materialism. But we cite these instances also as a positive proof that the much-lauded victory of modern Idealism over Materialism has no foundation in fact. To our own time may be applied what the well-known historian of Materialism, Friedrich Albert Lange (Geschichte des Materialismus u. Kritik seiner Bedeutung in der Gegenwart), wrote in 1875: "The materialistic strife of our day thus stands before us as a serious sign of the times. To-day, as in the period before Kant and the French Revolution, a general relaxation of philosophical effort, a retrogression of ideas, is the basic explanation of the spread of Materialism." What he says indeed of the relaxation of philosophical effort is no longer true today; on the contrary, seldom has there been so much philosophizing by the qualified and the unqualified as at the beginning of the present and the end of the last century. Much labour has been devoted to philosophy and much has been accomplished, but, in the words of St. Augustine, it is a case of magni gressus praeter viam (i.e. long strides on the wrong road). We find simply philosophy, without ideas, for Positivism, Empiricism, Pragmatism, Psychologism, and the numerous other modern systems are all enemies of ideas. Even Kant himself, whom Lange invokes as the bulwark against Materialism, is very appropriately called by the historian of Idealism, O. Willman, "the lad who throws stones at ideas ".
The idea, whose revival and development, as Lange expects, "will raise mankind to a new level is, as we have shown, not to be sought in non-Christian philosophy. Only a return to the Christian view of the world, which is founded on Christian philosophy and the teachings of the Socratic School, can prevent the catastrophes prophesied by Lange, and perhaps raise mankind to a higher cultural level. This philosophy offers a thorough refutation of cosmological and anthropological Materialism, and raises up the true Idealism. It shows that matter cannot of itself be uncreated or eternal, which indeed may be deduced from the fact that of itself it is inert, indifferent to rest and to motion. But it must be either at rest or in motion if it exists; if it existed of itself, in virtue of its own nature, it would be also of itself in either of those conditions. If it were of itself originally in motion, it could have never come to rest, and it would not be true that its nature is indifferent to rest and to motion and could be equally well in either of the two conditions. With this simple argument the fundamental error is confuted. An exhaustive refutation will be found in the present author's writings: "Der Kosmos" (Paderborn, 1908); "Gott u. die Sch pfung" (Ratisbon, 1910); "Die Theodizee" (4th ed., 1910); "Lehrbuch der Apologetik", I (3rd ed., Münster, 1903). Anthropological Materialism is completely disproved by demonstrating for psychical activities a simple, spiritual substance distinct from the body -- i.e. the soul. Reason assumes the existence of a simple being, since a multiplicity of atoms can possess no unitary, indivisible thought, and cannot compare two ideas or two psychical states. That which makes the comparison must have simultaneously in itself both the states. But a material atom cannot have two different conditions simultaneously, cannot for example simultaneously execute two different motions. Thus, it must be an immaterial being which makes the comparison. The comparison itself, the perception of the identity or difference, likewise the idea of necessity and the idea of a pure spirit, are so abstract and metaphysical that a material being cannot be their subject.
- Litany of the Blessed Virgin Mary
- Unfailing Prayer to St. Anthony
- Padre Nuestro - Our Father (Lord's Prayer)
- Hail, Holy Queen
- Hail Mary
- The Our Father
Copyright 2021 Catholic Online. All materials contained on this site, whether written, audible or visual are the exclusive property of Catholic Online and are protected under U.S. and International copyright laws, © Copyright 2021 Catholic Online. Any unauthorized use, without prior written consent of Catholic Online is strictly forbidden and prohibited.
Catholic Online is a Project of Your Catholic Voice Foundation, a Not-for-Profit Corporation. Your Catholic Voice Foundation has been granted a recognition of tax exemption under Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code. Federal Tax Identification Number: 81-0596847. Your gift is tax-deductible as allowed by law.