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adopts the "well founded doctrine that life is the cause and not the consequence of organisation." In his celebrated article “On the Physical Basis of Life," however, he maintains that life is a property of protoplasm, and that protoplasm owes its properties to the nature and disposition of its molecules. Hence he terms it “the matter of life,” and believes that all the physical properties of organised beings are due to the physical properties of protoplasm. So far we might, perhaps, follow him, but he does not stop here. He proceeds to bridge over that chasm which Professor Tyndall has declared to be “intellectually impassable," and, by means which he states to be logical, arrives at the conclusion that our “ thoughts are the expression of molecular changes in that matter of life which is the source of our other vital phenomena.” Not having been able to find any clue in Professor Huxley's writings to the steps by which he passes from those vital phenomena, which consists only, in their last analysis, of movements of particles of matter, to those other phenomena which we term thought, sensation, or consciousness, but knowing that so positive an expression of opinion from him will have great weight with many persons, I shall endeavour to show, with as much brevity as is compatible with clearness, that this theory is not only incapable of proof, but is also, as it appears to me, inconsistent with accurate conceptions of molecular physics. To do this, and in order further to develop my views, I shall have to give a brief sketch of the most recent speculations and discoveries as to the ultimate nature and constitution of matter.
The Nature of Matter It has been long seen by the deepest 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 localised 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 arra ements, even the special chemical, electrical, and magnetic properties of special forms of matter. 1 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 differently constituted molecules, constituting the phenomena of chemical combination, and resulting in new forms of molecule of greater complexity and more or less stability.
Those organic compounds of which organised beings are built up consist, as is well known, of matter of an 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 an almost infinite complexity of
1 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.
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 unlike, exclusive, and incommensurable. 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; and those who argue thus should put forth a precise definition 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 selfconsciousness. There is no escape from this dilemma,—either all matter is conscious, or consciousness is, or pertains to, 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.1
A friend has suggested that I have not here explained myself sufficiently, and objects that life does not exist in matter any more than consciousness, and if the one can be produced by the laws of matter, why may not the other ? I reply that there is a radical difference between the two. Organic or vegetative life consists essentially in chemical transformations and molecular motions, occurring under certain conditions and in a certain order.
The matter and the forces which act upon it are for the most part known; and if there are any forces engaged in the manifestation of vegetative life yet undiscovered (which is a moot question), we can conceive them as analogous to such forces as heat, electricity, or chemical affinity, with which we are already acquainted. We can thus clearly conceive of the transition from dead matter to living matter. A complex mass which suffers decomposition or decay is dead, but if this mass has the power of attracting to itself from the surrounding medium, matter like that of which it is composed, we have the first rudiment of vegetative life. If the mass can do this for a considerable time, and if its absorption of new matter more than replaces that lost by decomposition, and if it is of such a nature as to resist the mechanical or chemical forces to which it is usually exposed, and to retain a tolerably constant form, we term it a living organism. We can conceive an organism to be so constituted, and we can further conceive that any fragments, which may be accidentally broken from it, or which may fall away when its bulk has become too great for the cohesion of all its parts, may begin to increase anew
Matter is Force
The foregoing considerations lead us to 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.
to the very
and run the same course as the parent mass. This is growth and reproduction in their simplest forms; and from such a simple beginning it is possible to conceive a series of slight modifications of composition, and of internal and external forces, which should ultimately lead to the development of more complex organisms. The LIFE of such an organism may, perhaps, be nothing added to it, but merely the name we give to the result of a balance of internal and external forces in maintaining the permanence of the form and structure of the individual. The simplest conceivable form of such life would be the dewdrop, which owes its existence to the balance between the condensation of aqueous vapour in the atmosphere and the evaporation of its substance. If either is in excess, it soon ceases to maintain an individual existence. I do not maintain that vegetative life is wholly due to such a complex balance of forces, but only that it is conceivable as such.
With CONSCIOUSNESS the case is very different. Its phenomena are not comparable with those of any kind of matter subjected to any of the known or conceivable forces of nature; and we cannot conceive a gradual transition from absolute unconsciousness to consciousness, from an unsentient organism to a sentient being. The merest rudiment of sensation or self-consciousness is infinitely removed from absolutely non- sentient or unconscious matter. We can conceive of no physical addition to, or modification of, an unconscious mass which should create consciousness ; no step in the series of changes organised matter may undergo, which should bring in sensation where there was no sensation or power of sensation at the preceding step. It is because the things are utterly incomparable and incommensurable that we can only conceive of sensation coming to matter from without, while life may be conceived as merely a specific combination and co-ordination of the matter and the forces that compose the universe, and with which we are separately acquainted. We may admit with Professor Huxley that protoplasm is the “matter of life" and the cause of organisation, but we cannot admit or conceive that protoplasm is the primary source of sensation and consciousness, or that it can ever of itself become conscious in the same way as we may perhaps conceive that it may become alive.
All Force is probably Will-Force If we are satisfied that force or forces are all that exist in the material universe, we next led to inquire 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, etc.; 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 balancesheet 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 organised 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.