24 JULY 1869, Page 17


THE Positive school of philosophy in this country has, for the most part, managed to steer clear of the extravagancies of the founder of Positivism. This has enabled it, perhaps at some sacri- fice of consistency, to exert a larger amount of attraction on the popular mind. All spheres of scientific thought have felt its influence. Its traces may be found in the substitution of the notion of invari- able sequence for that of cause ; in the conception of natural law ; and in the opinion formed by men of science as to what constitutes an explanation of phenomena. Nothitig presents itself to the observation but a chain of events succeeding one another in time ; we can but register the observed succession, and to attempt to trace the principle of connection between antecedent and conse- quent, to assign not only causes but reasons, this is to go beyond the facts of observation, and to draw upon the fancies and pre- judices of the observing mind. No explanation can be admitted which rests upon final causes, there are also " commenta humani animi ;" it is but in our power to show that the observed pheno- menon is like other known phenomena, to class it with them, to place it under a higher and wider generalization, and it is only then understood when it is shown to be familiar. These principles have been applied by Darwin, Bain, and their followers to the spheres of organic and intelligent life. The mind can neither suffer nor act apart from the body. Why not, then, be content to assign the movements of mind at once to nervous function ?

To carry forward the labaura of this English school is ap- parently the aim of the volumes before us. The greater part of the work is confessedly nothing more than a digest of Darwin's Origin of Species and Herbert Spencer's Principles of Biology. The very headings of the chapters in the first volume are from the Principles of Biology, or where not from the Principles of Biology, they are mostly from the Origin of Species. Such books as Tyndall on Heat as a Mode of Motion and Carpenter's Comparative Physi- ology naturally come in as references for the bottom of the page in - a work of this kind, but the author distinctly disclaims any intimate knowledge with the philosophies of the Continent. Thus • * Habit and Intelligence, in their Connection With the Laws of Matter and Force: a Ries of Bcient(fic Essays. By Joseph John Murphy. In 2 V0113. London: Mapmillan. 1869. he is acquainted with Comte's Philosophie Positive, but it is only through Hariet Martineau's condensed translation, and the extent of his knowledge of the writings of Kant is naively confessed in a note on the Philosophy of Kant (vol. ii., p. 151), which we quote in extenso "I shall probably be told that I have misunderstood Kant's philo- sophy; and I admit that, like most of those who write about him, I have not any knowledge of his works at first-hand. But I believe I am right. The system unfolded in his Critique of Pure Reason is one of absolute idealism, deriving all the principles of knowledge from the constitution of the mind : this is, and Kant perceived it to be, logically identical with pure scepticism, or that system which denies the possi- bility of our really knowing anything except that which passes within the mind. It is true that, in his Critique of Practical Reason, he arrived at a different conclusion, and showed how faith was possible. But I believe I am right in saying that his Pure Reason is in no way a basis for his Practical Reason ; that, on the contrary, his Practical Reason, though of course it speaks in a philosophical language, is in reality nothing else than faith, building itself up in spite of the sceptical conclusions of the pure reason, or faculty of speculative philosophy."

We commend this estimate of "the philosophy of Kant" to our German scholars. May not the whole note, and especially the words we have italicized, throw some light on the attitude of English philosophy generally to the German school? There is no English translation of the Critique of Practical Reason. On the other hand, not only the conclusions, but the arguments and illus- trations of the Origin of Species and the Principles of Biology, are freely laid under contribution for the biological portion of the work. Thus the analogy between the development of the species from the original protozoon and of the individual from the germ is quite Spencer's own. It is, therefore, rather perplexing when we read (Preface, p. vii.) :—

" I have come to a conclusion which is fundamentally opposed to that

of Darwin I have come to a conclusion which is fundamentally opposed to that of the dominant psychological school in this country ; I mean that school which was founded, as I believe, by Hartley, and to which Mill, Bain, and Herbert Spencer belong."

This must not, however, be taken to mean that Mr. Murphy adopts as his guide any other philosophical school. He is still the disciple of Darwin and of H. Spencer, and where he differs from these writers it is on his own responsibility entirely. This circum- stance, no doubt, has imparted that air of originality which forms the most attractive feature of Mr. Murphy's book.

The attitude assumed by the author to the English school from which he derives is contained in the very title of his work. The principle of Habit represents the side of adhesion to the con- clusions of his predecessors. The addition of a principle of Intel- ligence represents where he differs from them. Thus the design of his work is clearly expressed as being "to point out what he believes to be the true position of the laws of habit in biology and psychology, and the relation of the principle of intelligence to that of habit in both."

Mr. Murphy is fully aware of the unsatisfactory nature of the conclusions of Darwin and his followers. Their system professes to be rigidly based on observed facts, to discard mental precon- ceptions, to be the very acme of realism. Really, however, it is the most ideal of systems, requiring an extraordinary combination of favourable circumstances for its conclusions to have come true ; its hypotheses are beyond the range of criticism. To take an example out of Mr. Murphy's own book :—" The irregularity of the metamorphoses of the oxolotl," we are told, "suggests also that the first individual of a Perennibranchiate species that lost its branchite and gave origin to a race of Caducibranchiates, may have done so accidentally, in consequence probably of the branchite drying up and withering for want of water."

And this is only one specimen of a number. The whole becomes a chain of probabilities, half the links of which exist only in the imagination of the systematizer. Verification is not only impossible, but unasked for. Thus, to refer again to Mr. Murphy, we have heard before of a division of nerves into sensory and motor, but where is the physiological warrant for speaking of nerves of thought and nerves of will ? It may or may not be that acts of volition and of thought are always accompanied by nervous currents, but to build a psychological system on a proposition of which the contradictory is still equally tenable ! The truth is, once get fixed in the mind such notions as that of a constant progress towards "Differentiation and Integration," or of a tendency towards "equilibration between the object and its environments," and the devotion of the human heart to system will make it not impossible afterwards to believe anything in the way of detail.

In sum, it is as with the doctrine of special providences of the English school of Shaftesbury, Butler, &c., these " tendencies " which the organism is supposed to possess in order to complete its development, are mere subjective fancies, read into the objects by the investigator. The principal examples of development adduced, the varieties of the dog and the pigeon, are, moreover, such as have been produced not by " natural " but intelligent "selection," under the directing care of man. Darwin, indeed, thinks that nature can do more than man, but this is confessedly because she works more slowly, and therefore more surely. Mr. Murphy has repre- seated in a mathematical formula the lapse of time required under these circumstances for the complete development from the original germ-cell. The merit of Todleben, as an engineer, according to Mr. Kinglake, was that he was able to take account of the element of time ; the demerit of this school of philosophers is that they are unable to take account of this element. Or is it that the conception of infinite time is a remnant of the defunct system of metaphysics?

Thus convinced of the unsatisfactory nature of the conclusions of positivism pure and simple, Mr. Murphy attempts to rehabilitate them by the notion of what he calls sometimes unconscious," some- times "formative intelligence." Intelligence on this theory becomes finally conscious of itself in the brain of man, but exists Mug before even in the most primitive organisms. How intelligence can exist and still be unconscious may be difficult to realize, but Mr. Murphy's whole theory of consciousness is a new one. Thus, in the psychological development of his system he maintains that "perception, though an inference, and as such an act of thought, is not due to conscious thought, but to unconscious, though sentient, organic intelligence." This theory of an unconscious intelligence is to solve the problem of the existence of evil in the world. Really, it only puts it one step farther back. For the Implanter of the intelligence is surely responsible for the devil to which that intelligence leads, particularly if the in- telligence is unconscious. The theory has a sort of spurious German ring about it. Really, however, it is something in- finitely simpler, being no other than that advocated by Dr. Erasmus Darwin, Lanark, and the author of the Vestiges of Creation, and has recently been taken up by no less a person than Professor Owen. Dr. Darwin suggests that "all warm-blooded animals have arisen from one living filament, which the Great First Cause endued with animality, with the power of acquiring new parts, attended with new propensities, directed by irritations, sensations, volitions, and associations, and thus possessing the faculty of continuing to improve by its own inherent activity." This theory, however, Herbert Spencer holds to be inconsistent with the modern philosophical spirit :— "In whatever way it is formulated, or by whatever language it is obscured [we quote from the Princ421es of Biology], this ascription of organic evolution to some aptitude naturally possessed by organisms, or miraculously imposed on them, is unphilosophical. It is one of those explanations which explains nothing,—a shaping of ignorance into the semblance of knowledge. The cause assigned is not a true cause,—not a cause assimilable to known causes,—not a cause which can be any- where shown to produce analogous effects. It is a cause unrepresentable in thought, one of those illegitimate symbolic conceptions which cannot by any mental process be elaborated into a real conception. In brief, this assumption, if a persistent formative power inherent in organisms, and making them unfold into higher forma, is an assumption no more tenable than the assumption of special creations, of which, indeed, it is a modification, differing only by the fusion of separate unknown processes into a continuous unknown process Neither this nor any other interpretation of biological evolution, which rests simply on the basis of biological induction, is an ultimate interpre:ation. The biological induction must itself be interpreted. Only when the process of evolution of organisms is affiliated on the process of evolution,in general, can it be said to be explained. The thing required is to show that its results are .corollaries from first principles."

Yet there is no notice taken of these arguments by Mr. Murphy. Apparently he does not see that the admission of ultimate ideas, of which by the way he is somewhat over fond, is to abandon his stand-point. No explanation, no generalization can ever be more than proximate and provisional, it must look to be superseded in the progress of science by a higher and wider generalization. To talk of the ultimate is merely to abandon the problem, and irre- sistibly reminds of Mr. Max Miller, who, after making fun of the theories of his predecessors on the origin of language by the names of the " Pooh-pooh " and " Bow-wow " theories, gave, as &is own explanation, that it must have been by inspiration.

Mr. Murphy has, however, all but reached what we consider to be the true answer to the development theory by " self- adaptation " and "natural selection." Some "selections4' are not accountable for by natural causes. The higher developments of organisms are not all adapted to enable their possessors to survive in "the struggle for existence." They are not all such as give increased strength to fight, or increased speed to flee, or increased capacity to breed. Notably, man, the highest development, is the most defenceless of animals. The important point here, then, is that development is not an accidental thing dependent on external circumstances, but has a distinct qualitative import, and itself moulds external contingency to attain this, its preordained end, the realization of the perfect type. This, then, presupposes a Directing Intelligence. But then, and this is the next point, once admit a Directing Intelligence, once admit a Perfection which is not produced by circumstance, but Itself moulds circumstance, and the whole flood of metaphysics is let in once more. What this Intelligence is, what the Principle of Perfection on which the world is planned, is a prior question to that of the development which this Intelligence conditions. The method is reversed. It is front the mind outwards, not from nature up to mind through "natural selection." It may have been to evade this difficulty that Mr. Murphy has hypothesized the existence of an intelligence which is at the same time not conscious.