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The Nature of Matter. It has been long seen by the best thinkers on the subject, that atoms,-considered as minute solid bodies from which emanate the attractive and repulsive forces which give what we term matter its properties,-could serve no purpose whatever ; since it is universally admitted that the supposed atoms never touch each other, and it cannot be conceived that these homogeneous, indivisible, solid units, are themselves the ultimate cause of the forces that emanate from their centres. As, therefore, none of the properties of matter can be due to the atoms themselves, but only to the forces which emanate from the points in space indicated by the atomic centres, it is logical continually to diminish their size till they vanish, leaving only localized centres of force to represent them. Of the various attempts that have been made to show how the properties of matter may be due to such modified atoms (considered as mere centres of force), the most successful, because the simplest and the most logical, is that of Mr. Bayma, who, in his “Molecular Mechanics,” has demonstrated how, from the simple assumption of such centres having attractive and repulsive forces (both varying according to the same law of the inverse squares as gravitation), and by grouping them in symmetrical figures, consisting of a repulsive centre, an attractive nucleus, and one or more repulsive envelopes, we may explain all the general properties of matter; and, by more and more complex arrangements, even
the special chemical, electrical, and magnetic properties of special forms of matter.* Each chemical element will thus consist of a molecule formed of simple atoms, (or as Mr. Bayma terms them to avoid confusion, “material elements) in greater or less number and of more or less complex arrangement; which molecule is in stable equilibrium, but liable to be changed in form by the attractive or repulsive influences of differ
of chemical combination, and resulting in new forms of molecule of greater complexity and more or less stability.
Those organic compounds of which organized beings
extreme complexity and great instability; whence result the changes of form to which it is continually subject. This view enables us to comprehend the possibility, of the phenomena of vegetative life being due to
* Mr. Bayma's work, entitled “The Elements of Molecular Mechanics," was published in 1866, and has received less attention than it deserves. It is characterised by great lucidity, by logical arrangement, and by comparatively simple geometrical and algebraical demonstrations, so that it may be understood and appreciated with a very moderate knowledge of mathematics. It consists of a series of Propositions, deduced from the known properties of matter; from these are derived a number of Theorems, by whose help the more complicated Problems are solved. Nothing is taken for granted throughout the work, and the only valid mode of escaping from its conclusions is, by either disproving the fundamental Propositions, or by detecting fallacies in the subsequent reasoning.
an almost infinite complexity of molecular combinations, subject to definite changes under the stimuli of heat, moisture, light, electricity, and probably some unknown forces. But this greater and greater complexity, even if carried to an infinite extent, cannot, of itself, have the slightest tendency to originate consciousness in such molecules or groups of molecules. If a material element, or a combination of a thousand material elements in a molecule, are alike unconscious, it is impossible for us to believe, that the mere addition of one, two, or a thousand other material elements to form a more complex molecule, could in any way tend to produce a self-conscious existence. The things are radically distinct. To say that mind is a product or function of protoplasm, or of its molecular changes, is to use words to which we can attach no clear conception. You cannot have, in the whole, what does not exist in any of the parts; and those who argue thus should put forth a definite conception of matter, with clearly enunciated properties, and show, that the necessary result of a certain complex arrangement of the elements or atoms of that matter, will be the production of self-consciousness. There is no escape from this dilemma,—either all matter is conscious, or consciousness is something distinct from matter, and in the latter case, its presence in material forms is a proof of the existence of conscious beings, outside of, and independent of, what we term matter.
Matter is Force.—The foregoing considerations lead us to the very important conclusion, that matter is
essentially force, and nothing but force; that matter, as popularly understood, does not exist, and is, in fact, philosophically inconceivable. When we touch matter, we only really experience sensations of resistance, implying repulsive force; and no other sense can give us such apparently solid proofs of the reality of matter, as touch does. This conclusion, if kept constantly present in the mind, will be found to have a most important bearing on almost every high scientific and philosophical problem, and especially on such as relate to our own conscious existence.
All Force is probably Will-Force. If we are satisfied that force or forces are all that exist in the material universe, we are next led to enquire what is force? We are acquainted with two radically distinct or apparently distinct kinds of force—the first consists of the primary forces of nature, such as gravitation, cohesion, repulsion, heat, electricity, &c. ; the second is our own will-force. Many persons will at once deny that the latter exists. It will be said, that it is a mere transformation of the primary forces before alluded to ; that the correlation of forces includes those of animal life, and that will itself is but the result of molecular change in the brain. I think, however, that it can be shown, that this latter assertion has neither been proved, nor even been proved to be possible; and that in making it, a great leap in the dark has been taken from the known to the unknown. It may be at once admitted that the muscular force of animals and men, is merely the transformed energy
derived from the primary forces of nature. So much has been, if not rigidly proved, yet rendered highly probable, and it is in perfect accordance with all our knowledge of natural forces and natural laws. But it cannot be contended that the physiological balance-sheet has ever been so accurately struck, that we are entitled to say, not one-thousandth part of a grain more of force has been exerted by any organized body or in any part of it, than has been derived from the known primary forces of the material world. If that were so, it would absolutely negative the existence of will; for if will is anything, it is a power that directs the action of the forces stored up in the body, and it is not conceivable that this direction can take place, without the exercise of some force in some part of the organism. However delicately a machine may be constructed, with the most exquisitely contrived detents to release a weight or spring by the exertion of the smallest possible amount of force, some external force will always be required; so, in the animal machine, however minute may be the changes required in the cells or fibres of the brain, to set in motion the nerve currents which loosen or excite the pent up forces of certain muscles, some force must be required to effect those changes. If it is said, “ those changes are automatic, and are set in motion by external causes,” then one essential part of our consciousness, a certain amount of freedom in willing, is annihilated ; and it is inconceivable how or why there should have arisen any consciousness or any apparent will, in such purely